Saturday, June 11, 2011

BCPSEA: Fostering division and polarization or promoting a conversation?

Charlie Naylor, who works with the BCTF, kindly allowed me to reprint this short piece he wrote in response to information published by BCPSEA:

The BCPSEA Perspectives in Practice paper, “Employment in Transformational Times – or Change as Usual” creates a false dichotomy which fosters divisive educational debate in BC. It simplistically and erroneously suggests there are two dominant perspectives around 21st century learning in the province. The first, according to and implicitly supported by BCPSEA, is reflected in the work of the Premier’s Technology Council, which argues for transformation of education to meet the needs of a changing world. The second, implicitly critiqued by BCPSEA, is reflected in several BCTF reports and documents. Thus, transformation and positive change appears to be promoted by the former Premier and his Technology Council while the BCTF appears Luddite and suspicious.

BCPSEA does this in part by misrepresenting the discussion paper I wrote and by selectively synthesizing and quoting sections from the paper. What my paper actually does is to approve and explore many of the ideas of 21st century learning advocates—meeting all students’ needs, constructivist pedagogical approaches, and appropriate and engaging uses of technology. It shares some of the wonderful innovations that reflect the work of many BC teachers and explicitly states that “there is much to interest and engage teachers” in considering 21st century learning concepts.

But what my paper also aims to do is widen the debate by exploring literature linked to educational philosophy, the history of schooling, trends in technology, the need to meet diverse student needs, and alternative views on educational and social futures. It does question how and why those same people who mandated uniformity and standardization in policy and legislation now demand personalization but do not say what it should look like or how they will support it. The BCTF paper suggests a considerable number of systemic issues require serious consideration, and it also considers potential pedagogical changes to better meet students’ needs—many of these areas representing challenges both for government and for teachers.

The intent of my paper was to offer one tool for widening a debate in which government, school districts, unions, and others might engage to consider the future of education. None of this is considered in the BCPSEA paper. Instead, for BCPSEA, it’s the transformers versus the Luddites, and it takes little to work out who sits in which camp. This dichotomy well suits the politics of division but does nothing to support serious discussion. The BC education community needs, as matter of urgency, to engage with ideas through serious and inclusive discourse rather than to foster polarization. In this case I argue that it’s the BCTF attempting to contribute to educational discourse through the discussion paper and its newly created 21st century teaching and learning web page. Perhaps it is time for BCPSEA to engage in a more constructive and collaborative debate, one in line with 21st century thinking.


BCTF Discussion paper

BCPSEA - Employment in Transformational times

Charlie Naylor, BCTF

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