Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Is changing school an act of unprofessionalism?

Sir Ken Robinson has said countless times that "schools kill creativity."

Alberta's Minister of Education Dave Hancock said recently "the current [Alberta] School Act is out of step with today's reality."

The purpose of this post is not to question whether Minister Hancock or Sir Ken Robinson are right or wrong (for the record, I think they are both right).

Rather, the purpose of this post is to ask:

If Minister Hancock or Sir Ken Robinson were teachers and they continued to make this kind of publicly critical commentary related to education and education policy, could their comments be interpreted as undermining confidence in the teaching profession and therefore in breech of the Alberta Teachers Code of Conduct?

Could it be argued their statements are critical of teachers and ultimately not upholding the noble profession of teaching? Are Minister Hancock and Sir Ken Robinson undermining the confidence of the teaching profession?

What if a teacher were to question and challenge school? What if a teacher openly and actively engaged in a dialogue around rethinking school? Would that teacher be undermining their colleagues? Would that teacher be in breach of their fidelity to their employer?

Needless to say, these questions and their corresponding answers carry enormous ramifications for educators who choose to speak up and lobby for change.


  1. Great question-

    Of course, many look at critiques of schools as an indictment of teachers and the teaching profession. However, this is misguided. Teachers work within a system created by decades of tradition, multiple levels of policy, and expectations from parents that are often incongruent with reform efforts.

    When I was in the classroom, I couldn't keep track of the number of parents that were upset that I did things differently than my predecessor and some of my colleagues.

  2. Joe,

    I really believe that as educators we need to ask questions about what we are doing to ensure that we are doing the best for our kids. That is expected in every profession. I do not think people ever have issues about questioning change, but sometimes I believe that it is the delivery of the questioning that people have an issue with. There are lots of good things that already exist in education (ie. many believe in the importance of relationships to building a strong classroom environment), but it sometimes seems to many that NOTHING is good. I agree with you that we need to evolve and progress in education; how we deliver that message is important. If it is done in a professional way, I do not see the problem.

    Just my two cents.

  3. Professionals question their profession and their practice constantly. Doctors do it, lawyers do it, teachers do it, administrators do it, and I believe that they should. I agree with George--the way that is done is sometimes where we tend to become less than professional, but I think that has less to do with being a teacher and more to do with the individual.

    As a Principal who came to administration at a very young age, I tended (and still tend) to question all sorts of things. Perhaps this was due to my honest lack of understanding why we were doing things a certain way, but more because it just seemed strange to do something that was inefficient or ineffective for students, teachers, and learning for the simple reason of "that's the way we do it around here". But interestingly, when I asked those questions in a calm and rational tone with a sincere bent to solving a problem, people tended not to have issue with it.

    Reflection on our practices is healthy!


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