Those of you who have heard me present in recent years may have heard me talk about how we have a culture based on “we do what do, because we have always done it that way” and talk about the start of term in September and the long summer break and how this is because in the past we needed to let the children get the harvest in…
So I did enjoy reading Mick Water’s column in the TES in which he talks about the long summer break and that getting in the harvest is a bit of a myth…
There are many myths about the school year’s provenance. The pattern of the harvest is a favourite but not very solid: the people who drove the beginnings of our public-school system did not really need their children home to help with harvest as they had workers for that. The universities, though, needed time to assess the results of their entrance examinations so that they could organise their new autumn intake. The school holidays mirrored the pattern of Parliament, with the long summer break for the wealthy of the time.
Indeed, the long summer holiday was essential for public schools so that children could do proper things with their parents like go on the grand tour of Europe, join a safari, learn to shoot things, and visit museums and theatres. After that, schools would “top up” the pupils’ education by teaching them things beyond their families’ scope.
Well going to have to now go and edit my presentations and remove all those harvest pictures.
Even so the point I was making still stands, we do things, because we have always done them that way. The origin of the long summer break isn’t the important point, the point is that we continue to have long summer breaks, because we have always had long summer breaks. We don’t even really know why we have long summer breaks, but we continue to have them, because we have always had them.
Culture of organisations and the people within those organisations is often based on doing what they have always done. They continue to do what they do, as they have always done. There is no reason or incentive to change. Generally change only comes about when there is a shock to the system and we are forced to change.
As a learning technologist I see myself as an agent of change. However I see my role as changing the organisation, not just individuals. It is more challenging to change the culture of an organisation, but the impact will be greater.
On a final note (and I am sometimes guilty of this as much as the next person).
The summer break remains a chance to learn about the real world. The broader a child’s outside school experience, the easier it is to learn in the artificial world of the classroom.
Just to point out, though we sometimes think this, school, college or university is the real world and we should stop thinking it is something different, it sends the wrong message to learners, the wrong message to parents and the wrong message to politicians. If we think school isn’t in the real world then where is it? Mordor?