During the time that Europe was transforming from an agriculturally based economy to an industrial one, schools were silos for the ‘new’ information needed to succeed in the ‘new’ world. Teachers then were people who delivered content and information deemed necessary for middle-class success. But what role do teachers have now in the 21st century when students carry around in their pockets a device that gives them nanosecond access to all human knowledge? What role does the teacher have now that the role of ‘content deliverer’ is defunct?
My suggestion is that a teacher in the 21st century should be a kind of host who structures a space for learning that is socially inviting, emotionally safe and intellectually stimulating. This space would be a reassembly of three historical spaces for dialogue, discussion and debate: the Forum, the Academy and the Salon.
It would be an integration of the Forum where Socrates “corrupted” the youth of Athens with his questions and Plato’s Academy with its intellectually stimulating dialogues but at the same time it would be socially inviting like the Salons held by Marie Thérèse Rodet Geoffrin and also emotionally safe like the classrooms of Maria Montessori.
This 21st century learning space would integrate the feminine/feminist aspects of the original salons of Italy and France with the masculine aspects of Plato’s Academy, resulting in a space that would marry the strengths of both masculine and feminine orientations to provide students with a expansive perspective on knowing, learning, being.
Of course, to be a host of such a space, a teacher would have to have a different set of skills and knowledge than those that are the focus of teacher-education curricula today.
The purpose of this blog is to suggest ways to transform any 19th century-model classroom into a 21st century learning environment.