Breaking the Story of School for Good
If we are correct in assuming that Advancement is about institutional progress, we should consider the possibility that the change we need in our schools is revolutionary, not incremental.
This is not a new idea. In his best known work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Thomas Kuhn argued that progress throughout the history of science is not continuous and linear, but is a series of "paradigm shifts" or "world views" whereby, in each era, we see and interpret the world around us quite differently.
Once upon a time, in other worlds, we told the story of a world that was flat. This narrative, for hundreds of years, framed our self-understanding of who we were in space and time. Until, that is, everything changed. Not by slow and continuous editing, nor by incremental progress in our thinking, but disruptive and sudden, we learned to see the world differently.
Sometimes, one could say, we need to break the story in order to tell a truer story.
Listening to the way in which we speak about the future of our schools, it is clear that we prefer to talk about "continuous self-improvement" than "revolution", perhaps because the former assumes we have always been and will always be on the right path; whereas the later forces us to face the possibility that, in some respects, we might have been going in the wrong direction altogether.
Advancement is about telling the story of our school and helping people find their place in that story. But more and more I find myself asking whether this means our duty is to be storybreakers as much as we are storymakers. We spend so much time tinkering with, editing, improving the story of our school, when all the time our students deserve an entirely different narrative.
Paulo Freire once argued that "The more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into a dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side."
If Advancement is to offer anything to our schools, we would do well to heed these timeless words. To stop being afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world, and to stand on the side of those who deserve better.