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Classroom Rebellion: From Obedience to Innovation

Illustration of a child in a school uniform sitting at a desk with a tentacle monster on their head, a notebook with 'obey' written on it, and an anarchy symbol with 'THINK!' on the desk front. by Foeshel


In the grand narrative of human history, the evolution of education stands as a testament to the adaptability of our species. Our modern concept of education, deeply rooted in the Industrial Age, emerged from a surprising source: the need for factory workers.

The Dark Origins

Child Labour and Factory Conditions

Picture this: It's the early days of the Industrial Revolution, and the allure of urban factories draws farmers and their families to the burgeoning cities. Factories were in dire need of labour, and they cared little about who provided it. Children were thrust into these dangerous environments, where they crawled into the tight spaces of machinery to clean and make quick repairs. It was a world reminiscent of sweatshops, with gruelling 12-hour workdays and unthinkable hazards.

A Shift in the Tides

The Rise of Unions and Labour Movements

However, as tragedy struck and children lost their lives or suffered injury, a line was drawn. The working class united, forming unions, staging protests, and going on strikes to demand better working conditions. The inevitable ban on child labour in factories posed a new challenge: what to do with the children? It became clear that a different approach was needed.

Detail of an Illustration of a child in a school uniform sitting at a desk with a tentacle monster on their head, a notebook with 'obey' written on it, and an anarchy symbol with 'THINK!' on the desk front. by Foeshel

The Birth of Industrial Education

A Novel Approach to Mass Production

A novel idea emerged among factory owners and the ruling classes: education as a means to create the ideal factory worker. Thus, the industrial education system was born. Desks were neatly arranged, and classes were designed for mass production and control, churning out factory workers. This system championed conformity, uniformity in education, and strict adherence to memorization and following instructions. Conformity was paramount.

The Suppression of Creativity

Strangling the Seeds of Innovation

Creativity, communication skills, and collaboration took a backseat to the need for obedient, rule-following workers. Schools were structured around rigid schedules, and the bell, an ever-present feature in factories, regulated every aspect of a child's day.

Detail of an Illustration of a child in a school uniform sitting at a desk with a tentacle monster on their head, a notebook with 'obey' written on it, and an anarchy symbol with 'THINK!' on the desk front. by Foeshel

Society in Transition

From Golden Age to Economic Shift

As time passed and society progressed, life became more comfortable. Wages increased, and the concept of a single breadwinner supporting a household became a reality. The 1950s and 60s were marked by a golden age, bolstered by strong unions and a generally content populace.

Education: The Stagnant Institution

The Persistence of an Outdated System

Yet, despite these monumental societal shifts, the archaic education system remained relatively unchanged, like a relic from the past. The transition to a more progressive education model has been gradual, hindered in part by the very unions that once fought for better working conditions.

The Finnish Revolution

A Model for Modern Education

In contrast, Finland recognized its shortcomings in 1968 embarked on a transformative journey. They placed trust in their teachers and fostered cooperation over competition. Teachers were highly educated, minimal standardized testing, and limited homework became the norm. Parental involvement and thrust from the parents in their education system. Flexibility and innovation were key educators had the freedom to adapt teaching methods promoting innovation and adaptability. Play and outdoor activities took precedence, and students with special needs were seamlessly integrated into regular classrooms.

Belgium's Educational Choices

A Glimpse into Alternative Approaches

In Belgium, we are fortunate to have various educational choices. Some are as ancient as described above in the industrial age of education, some are more progressive. Our daughter attends a school where the Freinet methodology, closely aligned with the Finnish system, is practiced.

The Call for Change

Re-evaluating the Education System

Today, we find ourselves entrusting a century-old education system with the task of shaping our future. It's a notion that borders on the absurd. Our rapidly changing world demands free thinkers more than ever before. We stand on the precipice of a new era, and the path ahead is uncertain. It is understandable that individual teaching is extremely difficult as one teacher oversees 25 children. But some systems have already found a way to adapt look at Freinet methodoly: It emphasizes student-centered and experiential learning, aiming to make education more engaging and relevant to students' lives.

The Illustration: A Symbol of Transformation

Visualizing the Need for Free Thought

The accompanying illustration for this blog depicts a child behind a school desk, adorned in a uniform. A monstrous figure looms over the childs head, symbolizing the pressure to conform and obey. On the desk lies a book with the repeated word "obey," while two small graffiti markings, the Anarchy sign and the word "THINK!" serve as a reminder of the need for free thought.

Conclusion: Nurturing Free Thinkers

Embracing Change for a Brighter Tomorrow

In our ever-evolving world, change is not merely an option; it is a necessity. We must nurture free thinkers who can navigate the unknown and usher in a brighter tomorrow.

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