School's Out Forever

"Wake up Miss, homework's not going to get done. Sorry Sir we're not in the mood for exams unless we can do them together, oh and we've hacked into the school mainframe to redesign the curriculum. There're going to be a lot more chemistry experiments and school musicals from now on and by the way we might have had enough of lessons and teachers completely. The bad news for corporate brands and old media is that we've got zero brand loyalty, we're exceptionally bored by television and we're advertising resistant. We don't go to the cinema, we make videos everyday, we don't go to museums - our whole lives are one huge, curated personal archive."

It's all about school at the moment with Sir Ken Robinson spreading the word on creativity in the classroom and people like Bill Ayers and Ivan Illich asking fundamental questions about the way (and what) we teach our kids. Most people seem to agree that the essential skills of the industrial revolution (sitting in neat rows, reproducing two years' learning in an afternoon, rote learning and repetition) are not so relevant in the present connected and cacophonous age. Extended reading and the insistence on individual exam results prompt the question; what is education actually for nowadays? The need to populate victorian-era factories with middle managers and the demand for lifelong corporate wage slaves has now passed.

We need to prepare our kids for today by teaching them how to collaborate effectively, how to hack the technology around them, how to assess scientific evidence and how to mesh disparate cultures into new art forms and creative languages. We need to recognise that they're great at sharing, communicating, working together. Filtering the net is one of their primary skills. They're going to be better at finding relevant information than any previous generation and what's more they're not going to be doing it alone. They've already worked out that sharing their videos and photos with huge groups of friends and contacts means a permanent global unified conversation.

Smart schools everywhere are waking up to the reality above. At the New Line Learning Academy in Maidstone, UK, a standard state secondary, the pupils interact in large open spaces where they're responsible for their own learning. Teachers don't stand at the front chalking and talking, they circulate around the room mentoring different groups engaged in different tasks. Free Skool Santa Cruz doesn't even have a school but holds lessons in parks and homes and explicitly tries to stay outside the stream of commerce, operating a gift economy. These are just two examples of a global movement taking on the educational process. Here in Brussels we're trying our own experiment in primary education focused on making stuff and giving a bunch of ten year olds the tools to look behind the curtain... Check out the website.

John Fass