This. . . is. . . Sparta! The Culture of Education 2.0

As I write these words, the culture of Education 2.0 is coming into being. This culture will bind and guide students, teachers, technology providers, consumers, parents, and children, well into the century ahead. Cultures are built using models – paradigms and ideals against which we compare our new community. Just as the American culture in the 17th and 18th century was woven from the strands of England, Republican Rome and ancient Greece, we now have the opportunity to ask, what should be our models for the culture of Education 2.0?

One controversial nominee: Sparta. Not Athens. Not wisdom for wisdom’s sake. Not a respect for the depth and complexity of thought solely in proportion to its depth and complexity. Not a model that assumes a distinct hierarchy between the teacher and the student or where the student is more-or-less passive, a vessel to be filled. Instead of these more “Athenian” virtues, we’d want our young Spartans to be:

  • Brave – To fully participate in the web is to expose yourself to the slings and arrows of dreadful slander, calumny, and misrepresentation. It is to know the genuine feeling of injury – to be attacked and to defend yourself. The web is not a gentle place and its future will be less so. We should raise our students to have thick skin – when we expect that skin to be exposed to the breadth and depth of the world itself.
  • Determined – the Web is big. As Douglas Adams would phrase it “vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big.” The intellectual ground to be explored by today’s ten year-old is as vast as the Louisiana Purchase. Each must find their way to the sea and to do so they must have resolve far beyond what the students of a decade ago were expected to possess. Day in. Day out. Tenacity.
  • Honest – web-based relationships are tenuous. On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog. Because of the anonymity of the medium, we risk more when we choose to trust. But we have to trust each other if we are to realize the potential of the medium. If we are to raise full citizens of the web we must teach them that honesty is non-negotiable and that credibility is the web’s most fragile and most valuable commodity.
  • Resourceful – They should be able to make do. We can be confident that the next five to ten years will be a time right out of Dickens – the best and the worst. Whether we are on the road to genuine economic recovery or whether darker storm clouds in Europe or the waning impact of the Stimulus package are portents of darker days to come, the undeniable truth is that most State budgets are in ruins. As sad as it is true: we can’t afford to give our children the technology they deserve. We can, though, provide them with what they need: A can-do spirit and a disciplined optimism.

All this and more is what we want for our new Spartan children: We want them to be fierce on the way to wise, tenacious on the way to smart. We want them to be canny and clever – the web is filled with half-truth and lies. We want them to grow beyond passivity, docility, or subservience at any age and praise them as they show courage, resolve, and fighting spirit. Does this mean we encourage rebelliousness? Of course not. We want their martial spirit to be collaborative – we want them to fight effectively in teams and to play reasonably well with others – but we want them to be able to discover what they really need and defend it with unrivalled ferocity. We want them to live, breathe and eat DIY – to be digital pioneers and frontiersmen (and women). We want them to be Makers, in Dale’s sense of the term – to charge into a sea of knowledge and swim for their very lives.

Education 2.0. Should. . . be. . . Sparta.

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