w variation. This is how biological evolution worked. This is how a free-enterprise economic system that rewarded initiative and entrepreneurial spirit succeeded where the centralized, command driven soviet system collapsed. In most parts of the world education is much closer to the soviet system and its inability to deal with the modern fast changing world comes from the same cause. I liked Escuela Nueva because it allowed teachers (and children!) more opportunity for initiative. A good model to adopt in the urban setting is the New York city system in which small schools can be set up in the building of a big school as independent organizations with their own curriculum, teaching methodologies etc.
6. Educating the public. Most people are unable to imagine any way of learning very different from the schools they attended. Lack of imagination also applies to subjects. For them "mathematics" means the mathematics they learned (or failed to learn) in school But this is just a tiny sliver of mathematical knowledge. It is taught because in the distant past it appeared to be the most useful mathematics around and because it could be taught using pencil and paper. It continues to be taught ONLY because it has been cast in some sort of cultural-bureaucratic concrete. Hardly any of it would be included if we could start from scratch designing a mathematics for schools.
7. Topic in Universities. The discussion of education in academic contexts is almost entirely about HOW to teach rather than WHAT to teach. For example, there are hundreds of books and thousands of papers on how to teach fractions and what goes wrong with learning them I have not found any serious books on WHY we are so insistent that our young learn this topic.
An idea that runs through everything I have said here is the need to think about educational actions on two levels. One is about the development of the individual student. The other is focused on the development of the system. As I see it both are about learning. I referred to my work in Maine as educating a state. People and other living creatures are not the only entities that learn; states and organizations including schools and perhaps the whole human race can learn as well.
To give a name to this idea I borrow from the distinction made by economists between microeconomics and macroeconomics. Consider two ways to think about a decline in car sales. The head of the Ford motor company thinks about this in terms of prices and preferences and concepts like "elasticity of demand" that belong to the field of microeconomics. This might lead him to lower the price or do more advertising. Alan Greenspan, the head of the Federal Reserve Board (which makes government policy about such matters,) may have as much or more influence on car sales but uses a different set of ideas taken from the field of macroeconomics. This leads him to manipulate factors such as interest rates and the supply of money. Oversimplifying, one might say: Microeconomics is about the behavior of individual people and firms; macroeconomics is about the financial environment. And oversimplifying again, one might say: micro-Educology is for thinking about how individuals learn and how schools function while macro-Educology is for thinking about the "learning environment" in which schools exist.
These are novel words for ideas that have roots in the work of other people. For example my friend Peter Senge names one of his books "Schools That Learn." However in the Future of Learning Group at MIT (among whose members I mention in particular my former student David Cavallo and my present Colombian Student Claudia Urrea) we are developing the idea in two new directions.
In a theoretical direction we make a much stronger between specific micro-educological theories, such as Piaget’s, and macro-educological phenomena. For example my paper "Why School Reform is Impossible" applies the concepts of assimilation and accommodation to the development of School. (See www.papert.org for this and many other relevant publications. Also watch out for my new book which will hopefully appear in Spanish as well as English early in 2005 and for publications in preparation by Cavallo.)
In an applied direction we give far more attention to the development of new content. Most writing about how schools might learn, like most writing about how computers can be used, focus on how to teach and how students learn but for us the point is to change what is taught and what is learned.