Diversity in Learning: A Vision for the New Millennium, Part 2

By Seymour Papert

This speech was video taped in 1999 for the Diversity Task Force convened by Vice President Al Gore.

real video file

Letís look at it from a slightly different angle: I think every baby comes into the world as a unique individual. If youíve had several children, or, like me, recently gone through the experience of being grandparent--itís wonderful how each one of them is different, does things in different ways, thinks differently. And then weíre going to channel them into a school that homogenizes them? And then weíre going to worry afterwards about how to free them from that homogenization and make them diverse again? Itís backwards. Itís the wrong approach.

Letís look critically and seriously at the conditions that make it necessary for us to think about how to create diversity. Because the only reason why we have to think about that is because we took individuals who came into the world as individuals and as diverse. We uniformized them, and now we have to worry about how to diversify them again, how to liberate their diversity. Itís all backwards. But I think we can look hopefully at the coming period.

Iíll just end by saying why I think that education--educational change--is really going to happen this time. After all, there is a puzzle. In the past there have been many, many reformers whoíve wanted to change education. Not much ever happened, there have been many predictions that technology--the movie strip, television, the language lab, many technologies--have been vaunted as the carriers of the educational revolution. Why should this time be different?

Well, Iíll tell you why: because this technology, the personal computer, is not a teacherís technology, itís a learnerís technology. And itís a technology that can be appropriated, taken over by young people, who can use it to feel the power of their own individual intellectual personalities.

And weíre beginning to see, coming into school, more and more kids who have had computers from the day of their birth, whoíve gotten used to using them, many of them not very well. But some of them have used them to have very, very rich learning experiences--beginning to get a peppering of these kids in our classrooms. And that is a real army to bring about change.

I call it "Kid Power." Kids coming into school and saying, "We want something better than this, and not only do we want itÖ"-- they are not only demanding, theyíve got a supply also, theyíve got a supply of the know how--"Weíll show you how to do it. Weíll help you."

And I think that force is what will make the difference between this coming revolutionary change in education and all previous reform movements, which were attempts to impose from above: somebody in Washington deciding, "Hereís a new curriculum, and letís teach the teachers how to do it, and train them to go into their classrooms and hope that it will trickle down to the students."

This is the other way around. Itís from the bottom up, itís a grass-roots phenomenon, and I think itís irreversible. And I think it is going to solve this wave of educational demand, this wave of new learning is going to solve the problem of diversity.

Thank you. If you would like to enter into conversation with me about this, Iíd love it. Get onto my website and let me know what you think. www.papert.org will find me, and Iíd love fighting with anyone who wants to challenge these ideas.

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