The phoenix metaphor is helpful in visualizing the future of schooling. We need not be alarmed, as Harry Potter is here, as the old schooling disintegrates. It is a waste of time and money to attempt to resuscitate it — and doing that just keeps the old bird whimpering along at high cost to students and budgets enduring its long, slow death.
Here, as Ovid wrote long ago, is what will happen to the phoenix of education if we quit trying to fix failing schools and look toward the bird that will be rising: Most beings spring from other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself. . . . dying, [it] breathes out its last breath amidst odors. From the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix issues forth, destined to live as long a life as its predecessor.
In Medieval times it was said that: When it is old, it builds a pyre of wood and spices and climbs on to it. There it faces the sun and the fire ignites; it fans the fire with its wings until it is completely consumed. Some say it is the sun that ignites the fire; others say that the phoenix starts it by striking its beak against a stone, or that stones gathered with spices in the pyre rub together to create a spark. A new phoenix rises from the ash of the old.
I suggest sunlight or a stone strike are long overdue in finishing off education as we have tried for so long to breath life into it. It is foolhardy in the digital age to keep trying to keep alive the dying analog school methodology. When the analog education sprung to life its driving realities were printed books and delivery of knowledge to geographical locations where students could gather.
The new education creature will be formed around digital versions of knowledge that can be comprehensively carried in each student’s pocket wherever he or she may be. The new education phoenix of the digital, connected age will, or course still be education — still be a phoenix, just one more more beautiful and appropriate to our times.
Since I have started writing at Handschooling.com several people have written to me or placed comments here that are, in truth, about the new education phoenix. These suggestions have included:
So I will be advocating a “open learning center”: approach to schools and a ‘networked common school’ approach to metropolitan inter-district cooperation.
I believe that many can in the rich world of content and real world experiences collaborative learn with others and self-direct that learning.
The reason I included a major section on “nurture” in Handschooling.com is because there are many local, individual aspects of education that can be re-envisioned in the era of the new education phoenix.