Changing Paradigms

“Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment.” -Thomas Jefferson

Sometimes I think to teach you must be comfortable with paradoxes. We know about the limitations of testing, yet we still rely on tests. We know children learn at different rates and develop at different speeds, yet we are still tied to age groupings. We know adolescents get their best REM sleep in the mornings, yet we keep the same hours. We know that a two month break from school can really slow down learning, yet we still follow the same calendar. The list goes on and on and is not limited to the field of education. I’ve been thinking this past week a lot about why it is so difficult to change paradigms and in the end wonder if it’s not more about the dance of the paradigms as opposed to actually shifting from one to another.

The struggle between paradigms is nothing new, Plato talked about it more than 2500 years ago. Even so that’s little comfort as I struggle through some of my daily contradictions. Whether it’s the tension between the modern and postmodern thinkers or Howard Gardner’s assertion that we need both masters and the makers in the world, it seems like there is always an uneasy relationship between the two. There are people who know how to live well in the box and those who dream of ways to get out. When I took innovation training about a year ago I learned about the importance of both the explorers and the developers in solving problems. Perhaps we are not really at odds when we are faced with yet another paradox…perhaps life is simply giving us a new dance partner who will help us improve our technique.


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