Michael Doyle often nudges me into new thinking ... Take this thought from his Science Teacher Blog.
Michael Doyle is onto something .... I like thinking about boundaries of all kinds
This morning in Ponsonby Rd I was captured by the number of people I saw balanced on the strip of white paint that is only a few mm thick. Clutching biodegradable trays loaded with cups of takeout coffee they were watchful in the precariousness of their boundary - waiting for an opportunity to swap their boundary for another albeit more elevated boundary in Auckland City - the pavement strip.
Those boundaries marked by white painted surfaces are not protected by armies, but they are marked by agreement and convention. The boundaries of white paint road markings might seem a little different from the boundaries of nationalism but many of the same rules apply –
John Stewart Mill describes it “nationalism” as when
Those coffee clutching pedestrians standing on the painted strip boundary are united by common sympathies that do not exist between them and the motorist barrelling down Ponsonby Rd trying to get to work. The motorists occupying a different boundaried surface have common sympathies that are not shared with the Ponsonby Rd already at work - office gopher.
Common sympathies always make me anxious - they suggest the existence of common antipathies.
Looking at “why we belong” requires us to identify those others that don’t ... and this is probably why the boundaries of nationalism make me anxious – as do the other boundaries people use to form collective identity.
I guess I can never escape that boundary ideas that Tom Lehrer so cleverly captures in Who’s Next.
Those coffee clutching boundary perchers in Ponsonby Rd would have to re- position themselves if they attempted the same activity on the Auckland Harbour Bridge - The lane boundaries on the harbour bridge are movable boundaries – great hunks of interconnecting concrete that make me think of global warming and those national boundaries drawn across glaciers that are not as immutable as we pretended when we talked about them in school.
Recognising that global warming will make any line based on the watershed of a glacier temporary, the understanding with Austria has for the first time introduced the concept of a movable border. Experts from both sides will be empowered to alter it at regular intervals. Until, presumably, the glaciers disappear altogether. A movable border
All of which makes me think again about the boundaries we have built between individual schools in New Zealand.
In education the boundaries and borders we create with our points of difference, our principals as robber barons, our school based curricula etc allows us to measure what fits and what doesn’t – allows us to discriminate based upon assessment – both formative and summative – allows us Anne Tolley like national standards – allows us NZEI feared league tables.
In the L@S09 keynote Andy Hargreaves talked about creating “culture of collective responsibility” in education – a culture based on
Collective responsibility – requires movable boundaries – responsibility without boundaries - it is a novel notion in a world predicated on right indexed to the might of a nation state, right indexed to the “successful school”, and right indexed to the powerful individual.
Collective responsibility is a certainly a novel notion in New Zealand education where we are encouraged to identify and market our boundaries with other schools as points of difference, to establish zones and where the NZC sees us exhorted to develop our own curriculum boundaries – aka our own school based curricula.
In such a boundary based educational landscape we should not be at all surprised to see principals talking like robber barons about owning the schools that employ them; to see principals passing around personal business cards that could be mistaken for those of our most entrepreneurial real estate agents; and to see as a consequence of this boundaried thinking - teachers and principals made anxious and defensive by talk about national standards and measurement targets.
The boundaries of teaching and learning allow us vainglorious ambition but they also allow measures of boundaried accountability –
... and yet it is the wantonness of learning sans boundaries that we need to imagine and make real.
When I imagine learning without boundaries in schools across New Zealand – I imagine that all that collective responsibility will be not unlike lovemaking, not unlike art
So how do we get movable boundaries and collective responsibility in New Zealand education – how do we achieve passionate virtuosity? How do we raise achievement outcomes for all young New Zealanders?