As I’ve mentioned before, the ideas of Steven Johnson are really influencing my thinking about school change right now.  What Johnson argues is that sustainable change in any field really isn’t about revolutionary ideas.  In fact, Johnson believes that embracing revolutionary ideas about change is a recipie for disaster.

Johnson’s ideas are echoed by Kevin Kelly, who writes in Wired Magazine:

Ideas that leap too far ahead are almost never implemented—they aren’t even valuable.

People can absorb only one advance, one small hop, at a time. Gregor Mendel’s ideas about genetics, for example: He formulated them in 1865, but they were ignored for 35 years because they were too advanced. Nobody could incorporate them.

Then, when the collective mind was ready and his idea was only one hop away, three different scientists independently rediscovered his work within roughly a year of one another.

Interesting stuff, huh?  And still more proof that ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking isn’t going to get us anywhere in education—whether we’re talking about reforming teacher evaluation models or reforming instructional practices.  What we really need, argues Johnson, is thinking at the edges of the box:

(download slide and view original image credit on Flickr)

How does this sit with you?  Are you exhausted by the “we need a revolution” rhetoric surrounding education?  Do you think evolutionary change for schools makes sense instead?

Do we have the time for evolutionary change to occur?

What are the consequences of too much out-of-the-box thinking in our schools?  How about the consequences of not enough out-of-the-box thinking?

Will we ever get the balance just right? 



Original Image Credit:  10_cardboard_rough_03 by Six Revisions

Licensed Creative Commons Attribution on February 6, 2011


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