What If?

What if schools really are what most people think they are?

What if they’re really all about getting good marks so that students can move on to university?

What if respect and rigor and discipline and conformity really do matter more than anything else?

What if remembering facts is actually more import than the ability to reason independently, decode problems, and generate innovative solutions?

What if canned syllabi actually do matter more than the individual needs of our students?

What if there really doesn’t need to be any connection and collaboration between different subjects and the skills they teach?

What if encouraging grit and determination and resilience really are more important than exercising compassion, understanding, and empathy?

What if it really is all about competition and being better than everyone else, rather than learning to negotiate, cooperate, and collaborate?

What if the ability to take a test well really does trump abilities and dispositions like critical thinking, curiosity, compassion, creativity, and good communication skills?

What if after-school programs like dramatics, debating, chess, dancing, and robotics really are not as important as the traditional sports codes?

What if the Arts and Humanities really aren’t as important as mathematics, the sciences, and the languages?

What if teachers who teach senior grades really are more important than those who teach younger students?

What if having more experience does indeed make you a better teacher?

What if kids really should sit still and shut up?

What if it’s true that students have to learn lower order thinking skills before they learn the higher order stuff?

What if it truly is their responsibility to listen and learn rather than to debate and ask questions?

What if practice really does make perfect?

And what if every teacher believed that this was really all there was to education?



  1. i love your questions and in our rush to change i do not think we are neither asking or answering them in depth. Oh, that we all met regularly to discuss them.


  2. Sean, I recently subbed to your blog because I think you are an educational philosopher (perhaps you know it, perhaps you don’t, perhaps I’m wrong :P). I’ve been enjoying reading your thoughts.

    Turning Cartesian doubt on education is necessary as we should be critical of our beliefs and what we challenge. We should not just challenge the status quo because it is the status quo – we should not be rebels just because there is an empire. We should also not create the thought of rebels and empires because a bunch of people are wearing different colour shirts and create factions where it is a little more complex than that. But I do follow that your questions are intended to be evocative rather than statements of dualism.

    I think we should approach education with three questions. We cannot proceed to the next question if we haven’t answered the previous one, but we already have an education systems so there will be friction from habitus if our answers mean change:

    1. Why do we educate?
    2. How do we do education?
    3. What do we do in education?

    See https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action#t-151658 as he explains it so much better than me.

    Maybe we we are asking questions from the wrong end, maybe we don’t know the why, resulting in too many “what ifs”.

    Looking forward to your next post.


    • Thanks for your comment and your sub Mr Lotter. I am, I’m afraid, a much simpler man than you give me credit for. I do agree with most of what you’ve said, with one important exception: The first question isn’t a ‘why’ question, but a ‘who’ question. As in, ‘Who is education for?’ The answer seems easy, it’s for kids, surely! But if that means that syllabi, teachers, hidden agendas, religious ideologies, parents, grades, school structures, and the like must all play a supporting, rather than starring role, educationalists become a little more uncomfortable.


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