“The status quo sucks!” -George Carlin

We like to cling to the status quo! Sure, we love to complain about it, but if it’s challenged or threatened, things can get ugly very quickly. Dramatic language is hurled in the general direction of anyone who dares to question the way things have “always” been done. History is packed with examples of people strongly reacting when long established institutions are “threatened” by change.

Years ago my wife and I went on a trip to the UK. In our travels we visited Tideswell, in Derbyshire, and came across The Cathedral of the Peak. Inside this ancient building was an alabaster tomb of Sir Thurstan (died c1423) and Lady Margaret de Bouwer. When I was taking the picture below, a clergyman of some sort approached and asked if he could be of assistance. I commented to him on the damage to the tomb – Lady Margaret was missing both her arms and poor old Thurstan was missing his lower left leg and, even worse, someone has souvenired his manhood! Ouch! This clergyman told us that the damaged was done by Oliver Cromwell’s followers as they rampaged throughout England during the civil war in the 17th century. I have tried, without success, to confirm his story. Now I am unclear whether he was just pulling the leg of some Aussie tourists for a laugh or if the story is a local myth. In any case, at the time we believed him and we were astonished!

On the surface the story was a believable one as we were aware that Cromwell’s “soldiers often desecrated Churches by removing any signs of what they regarded as ‘Popish’ idolatry, ornaments, statues, or destroying stained-glass depictions of saints.” (ref New World Encyclopedia – Oliver Cromwell) Whether the damage below was caused by Cromwell or not, the apparently mythical story serves to illustrate the point – it is conflict that almost always characterises change, rarely cooperation or collaboration.

Cathedral of the Peak built 1340-90
See A Guide to Tideswell and its Church for some quirky history around this couple.

When it comes to education, mooted change, as always, generates conflict. There is a rising tide of educators who see change as essential to meet the needs of our 21st century global society. There are many though who have not yet realised that the 20th century, and its ways of working, ended a decade and a half ago. We hear their cries for ‘back to basics’ traditional education.

While those promoting change are unlikely to follow Cromwell’s change strategy of rampaging throughout the countryside ripping whiteboards from classroom walls and burning piles of text books, the idolatrous symbols of traditional education, we do see the same old characteristics of change – conflict and resistance. Those wanting change (I do) have to expect a battle.

For those who do not want change, the message is clear: Don’t mess with the status quo even if the status quo sucks!

I was reading a blog post by Matt Mesterman (@mesterman) Undermining education. In it Matt speaks of “a positive movement of people who are striving – sometimes without realising it – to overturn and open up the way education happens.

Part of the problem with the change that is taking place is that how things might work in the future is uncertain. What will happen to schools? Does it matter as long as whatever replaces their current structure is better – more appropriate for the time we now live in? As long as it is best for our students? Isn’t that what really matters, or do we just resist because schools have supposedly always been the way they are now?

Big car companies, book publishers and Ye Olde Knights in armour like Sir Thurstan de Bouwer and his missus, have all become part of history because they chose to ignore change and resist those who promoted it, rather than engaging in a dialogue with change agents and being part of the process. Change is coming in education. It is already happening as Matt Mesterman’s blog post identifies. Change is needed in education. Why would any educator not engage, I mean authentically engage, with ideas around changing how education works, in an effort to bringing it in line with the way the world is changing?

The status quo does indeed suck; so let’s get on with changing it!

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