Changing the Education Paradigm from the Industrial to Democratic Era

Changing the Education Paradigm from the Industrial to Democratic Era

Conversations need to focus on the outcomes we want for our children: Chaltain

Sam Chaltain, writer and education activist, says when it comes to an education paradigm shift what’s needed is a move from the industrial era of schooling towards a not-yet-realized democratic era model of schools.

Chaltain, who is based in Washington, DC, says people are still trying to reform schools within the constraints of a model designed to meet the needs of society more than a century ago.

He adds during this time there was an unprecedented explosion of new jobs and volume of children who needed to be matriculated through the schools, which provided many of these “intractable” symbols of schooling such as bells, textbooks and kids sitting in rows with the teacher at the front.

While this model worked well for the period it was designed for and helped America to ascend in the way it did during the 20th century, there are different needs today than in the industrial era, says Chaltain.

“It’s clear that we need to do more than just think about how to put information into the heads of kids,” he tells Axiom News.

Young children today will be applying for jobs that may not currently exist, requiring a new set of skills, habits and competencies that will allow future graduates to succeed, he says.

These skills go beyond being intelligent and thoughtful to being flexible, adaptable, marketable, desirable, among others.

Though there is a debate going on in the U.S. about school reform it is centred on student achievement as defined through basic standardized reading and math skills, he says, noting every day he sees articles about whether or not a given school program is successful through this lens.

Chaltain says it is a problem that the conversations about the success of schools aren’t being gauged by the ultimate outcomes we want for our children.

He is involved in a number of campaigns with the view to try and create the conditions for more people to see for themselves what powerful learning looks like and requires.

As people emotionally and viscerally experience that disconnect they will start asking themselves, their elected officials, their neighbours and their colleagues a different set of questions, he says.

“And that is not a recipe for quick fixes, but trying to bring about a paradigm shift in American public education is not a quick fix to begin with,” he says.

“I feel like that’s the challenge that I am going to be wrestling with, along with a lot of other people, for the foreseeable future.”

— More to come

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Writer Bio

Jennifer Neutel's picture
Jennifer Neutel

Jennifer Neutel is a Story Advocate and Generative Journalist at Axiom News. She completed her Bachelor of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa in 2006, and joined Axiom News in 2007. She has taken on a variety of roles at Axiom including new social media intiatives and has a passion for creating strengths-based questions that can lead to positive change.

Contact Jennifer:, or 705-741-4421 ext. 26.

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