Book series now available.

Hope and education

Education is an institution.

Education is a trap. It is also a fantasy of hope. Education is supposed to free us, but does it? Is it a cage? Is it a hole into which we fall, hopelessly, powerlessly  through the opaqueness of light? Or is it a straightjacket of persecution?

What is a teacher, and why don’t they listen?

At the end of the educational journey, what is left? An uncertain commodity, labelled, defined and assigned to a particular ‘style’ of being. Why do we lock children into cages and imprison them with labels from which perhaps they will never be freed?

Perhaps the commodity is certain. Maybe that is the point?

Where is the light in the black hole of educational institutions?

Is education a conveyor belt of disempowerment and a regime of compliance?

Does it segregate and define through exclusion and assumptions?

What is the image of the child in schools? The deficit image is prominent, and the indicator is being tested. What does testing do? Does it lay blame at the feet of the child instead of the teaching?

Education is an institution. 

But who wants to be institutionalised?

I paint a bleak picture. Maybe there is more?

Maybe a voice from history, a fearless voice, a provocative and confronting voice, might challenge educators, theorists, psychologists, and others.

A man, a pedagogue who would be compelled to advocate for the rights of children, for democracy, for citizenship.

Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach, developed the idea of a daily utopia, where experiences in schools for young children sanctioned freedom of expression and creativity. Perhaps there were hundreds of ways to express yourself? Perhaps children were not clones, forced into a predetermined trajectory of sameness?

Maybe all children are intelligent?

If educators shook off the shackles of a predetermined curriculum and treated children with rights, as citizens and with respect, maybe schools and then education could reveal itself basked in light. Inviting, inclusive and warm.

What if relationships mattered? What if children were empowered, listened to and felt like they belonged? What if their thoughts, feelings, ideas, imaginings, and theories were documented and their learning made visible? Would these practices blow away the whispers of doubt, their invisibility and create a sense of joy, a strong sense of being? 

These daily utopias are possible for all children in Australia, beginning with our youngest citizens. Educators must maintain the internal rage of the injustice of current practices in schools and services. They must advocate for an approach to education that allows each child to develop their own identity and leave their own fingerprint.

The philosophies from Reggio Emilia are not a recipe but a provocation. They are a provocation for educators to provide children with an education that creates the possibility for a better humanity.

Nothing without joy (Loris Malaguzzi)

Kerrie O’Neill

August 2014