Iesha Small

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Do we educate for conformity?

Is education too often about making children conform? Is so, is that a problem? 157 words

I was listening to a podcast recently when the interviewer said

‘In a world that is trying to get you to be vanilla, nobody that I know who is successful took the normal path’¬†– Chase Jarvis, CEO Creative Live

It got me thinking.

  • what do we teach young people that success is? Are we right?
  • who decides what normal is?
  • how do we decide which deviations from normal are good and which are bad?

Schools can be wonderful places where education is transformative and life long learning begins. Schools can also be¬†uninspiring places where we teach students (and staff) that the way to have a quiet life is to do what everybody else does and conform. Sure, we’ll allow questions as long as we already know the answers and it doesn’t shake things up too much.

People who end up changing things and being great didn’t always follow the rules.


Enjoy your Wednesday.





  • @cazzwebbo

    6th July 2016 at 7:12 pm → Reply

    I think for safeguarding of minors we have to have rules, behaviour codes and authority. We try to teach how to critically engage and evaluate but it’s not really until postgrad that we say students can be original…

    • ieshasmall

      15th July 2016 at 11:17 am → Reply

      Yes, of course.

      It’s interesting. I wasn’t thinking about behaviour when I wrote this. For I’m quite traditional in that respect. Maybe originality can only come once you have a good grasp of the rules that you want to break?

      • Leah K Stewart

        15th July 2016 at 12:48 pm → Reply

        Interesting point, and I agree that we can’t consciously make good change happen if we don’t know what the standard is now. Students are surrounded by adults though, who could be original and also communicate the challenges of this, if they dared. But I saw it as a student, and hear it now; educators must protect students from disagreements. It wasn’t till I was 20 on a university exchange in Sweden that I saw two educators respectfully disagree with each other on their subject and talk it out in front of us students instead of hiding for fear we’d get confused and miss some test marks.

  • Leah K Stewart

    9th July 2016 at 6:19 am → Reply

    Thanks for this thought Iesha. When I was preparing my Festival of Education (Student Zone) presentation this idea of ‘what is normal?’ came up and someone who I talked through my work with said that in a court of law no one defines normality, so arguments that try to define right/wrong (legal/illegal) based on what’s ‘normal’ are not counted as justice. At a TeachFest earlier this week I also tried to unravel what’s behind this paradox of conformity verses what we’re seeing makes for success and have just popped the video on the top of my blog if you’d like to see.

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Do we educate for conformity?