Windy, inspiring messages about change and innovation are abound in many facets of our society. The promise of change prompts voters to select their hopeful candidate. The advent of new technologies will free up time for us to perform less mundane tasks. Change is the answer.

I don’t disagree. An object at rest stays at rest, unless acted upon by an external force. But without proper execution, even a new and improved reaction can be inhibited by unforeseen friction.

The buzz around disruptive education and “anti-teaching” encourages student learning rather than student compliance. The rhetoric surrounding these ideas empowers students and teachers alike. They nod their heads in agreement in regards to subjects with negative connotations, such as tests and grades. A different system is needed, they concur, one that is tailored to students’ individual experiences.

Again, I agree. But all I can think of while reading or listening to TED talks surrounding the subject is the friction. Implement new learning practices, and watch the complaints roll in. Complaints from the students, who are oftentimes so under-socialized that the thought of talking to someone on the phone gives them anxiety; complaints from the teachers, who are sometimes already so overworked that brainstorming and fine-tailoring individualized lesson plans may put them over the edge; complaints from other teachers, who have taught the same lessons and used the same handouts for decades; complaints from parents, who were measured by grades and ACT scores and feel this served them just fine.

The friction is inevitable. It slows progress, but it also serves a purpose. Feeling fuzzy and warm is an important ignitor for change, but genuine concerns are just as important. Before everyone jumps on the change train, they should be sure the track is built, and built well.

 

-J