Myth Three – The 21st century fundamentally changes everything

Posted on 13-06-2013

This blog post summarises chapter 3 of my book Seven Myths about Education. It will be published on March 5th 2014 by Routledge. To read the introduction to this sequence of posts, click here. Click here to preorder if you are in the UK, and here if you are in the US.

In this chapter, I look at some more modern theories about the unimportance of facts. I consider what some current education professors and education unions have to say, and look at two phenomenally popular YouTube videos – Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk and Shift Happens. Their argument is that the speed of modern technological change means the education world needs to change equally quickly. I look at some lessons and curricula which have been influenced by these ideas, including the RSA’s Opening Minds curriculum and some more examples of good and outstanding Ofsted lessons. I show that in practice the kinds of changes these ideas lead to are not modern at all, but are remarkably similar to Rousseau’s prescriptions in the 18th century. I also show that these theories consistently exaggerate the extent to which our knowledge of the world is changing. In fact, fundamental bodies of knowledge and basic inventions are just as important as they ever were and are highly unlikely to change significantly in the future. I argue that the newer an idea is, the more likely it is to become obsolete; whereas those old ideas which are still useful to us are likely to go on still being useful in the future. This chapter builds on an earlier blog post of mine you can find here.