A few weeks ago I was watching a YouTube clip of a fairly well-known Irish educationalist. When asked what they wished for the future of education, the education expert in question said they wished for the education system to be agile, resilient and to have a growth mindset. I was genuinely shocked because what was being said was utterly meaningless – and it was coming from a senior academic. Then when I read this mish-mash of clichés and factoids, it dawned on me that this kind of nonsense has been going on for the best part of twenty years.
Something happened on January 1st, 2000 and not many people noticed it. An epidemic began. It was caused by a different sort of millennium bug, let’s call it Millenium 2, and it infected the minds of teachers, lecturers, ‘educationalists’, employer organisations and basically anyone who has ever been to school. A little bit of research showed that this bug was not new – in fact it was more than 200 years old – but had a tendency to lie dormant for decades only to resurface again.
Infected educationalists, in particular, are thriving, mostly in the private sector but also in the education departments of our universities. They can also be found among our curriculum designers, and increasingly in the corporate halls of software manufacturers and even toy makers. Many spend their days telling teachers and lecturers what they are doing wrong and bizarrely, many teachers and lecturers agree with them, even when they are being accused of beating the love of learning out of their students. That seems to be one of the characteristics of Millenium 2 infection – an ability to make teachers and lecturers feel a sense of self-loathing.
A particularly noticeable symptom of infection with Millenium 2 is amnesia, especially an inability to remember anything about the 20th century. Infected educators become obsessed with the “19th century model” of education and worry that it might not be fit for purpose in the 21st century – because of technology or something. Other symptoms included an obsession with words beginning with ‘c’, having phobia-like thoughts about the pace of technological change, and being curiously obsessed about jobs that don’t exist yet. The also seem to fixate on the fact that graduates might have a more than a few jobs in their careers and talk an awful lot about “skills”.
Many of those infected have a very strong tendency to speak in such vague and meaningless terms as to be downright incoherent (see above) and often start sentences with the phrase “We need to teach…”. In some, but not all cases of Millenium 2, the infected person becomes unable to control his or her tendency to virtue-signal how much they care about the wellbeing of children.
Despite being around for nearly twenty years now, this latest epidemic of Millenium 2 is thriving and it is clear that organisations like the OECD, the World Economic Forum and even our own NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment) are riddled with it. These organisations seem to have picked up a strain that makes them obsess about “problem-solving”.
Ultimately a diagnosis of Millenium 2 rests on one simple test and it’s the robot test. If the suspected Millenium 2 sufferer mentions robots or artificial intelligence more than once in a conversation, then there is a 99% certainty that they are infected.