76 Trombones in the reform parade

Reform is all about the future. Humans are notoriously optimistic about the future and every song and dance man can belt out a tune about leadership, motivation and how to turn dreams into reality. You only have to spend a few minutes on Twitter to see how the 21st Century SocMedia Leaders use ‘the future’ as a pervasive attention-grabber.

Sadly, and for all their seventy-six trombones, the future is notoriously unpredictable which also makes it perfect for doing exactly nothing. If we’re talking about actual reform, where we’re crafting and implementing a new and mostly unique model of learning – even the best intentions will run into the ongoing culture which is strapped to the neo-liberal pole of ‘do more with less’. The job of reform is thankless and at times borders on dangerous. Most people don’t want to change. Our brains are wired up to notice these things, and it tells us that change is hard and dangerous – so don’t get involved.

Saying you’re on board or wanting it doesn’t make it true. Reform is very difficult because our monkey brains spend all their time avoiding danger and risk, and want to do things that have proven safe and easy in the past. There is an end destination – the one that we all want to get to. People seem to think that at some point, the motivation to do it will come – and bingo, next stop Reform City. I don’t believe this. I used to, but time and again, people love the parade, but don’t stick around for the actual work. Even worse, the online culture has convinced people that we can reform classrooms using the ‘think system’ and not put in any [more] effort.

So even if you have this amazing thing that can transform learning and teaching — it’s going to get bogged down in the mud. People are going to wait you out and see if it goes away or worse, watch it crash and burn. I admire people who set out to reform schools – and entire systems – because it’s HARD WORK and I have little time for keynotes and Twitter experts who to me are song and dance men at the end of the day. If you’re in the reforming business – you know what I mean … seventy six trombones in the big parade!