October 31, 2020

A Parable

My colleague, friend, and mentor Seymour Papert used to teach through parables. Here is my lame attempt at maintaining that tradition. No need to thank me. You are quite welcome!


Everyone in the kingdom of Isteeville goes about their lives with a happy-go-lucky attitude and nary a care in the world. Everything is fine.  In Isteeville, there are good schools and terrible ones, but no one seems to notice. There is an easy solution™ for every problem, as long you pay no attention to funding disparities, lack of resources, or the systemic racism that bestow very different experiences upon kids.

Every year or two a popular blogger invents a clever acronym or catch phrase to excite the kingdom for a short time. A band of agile salespeople and consultants who, like 54-year-old bees, have pollinated many a startup with “edu” or “mentum” in their name, change their corporate polos for the next innovation season. Their whispers about FFL spread via Ploink, the new new new new post-social network. Flippety-Floppety Learning enthusiasts descend upon the Land of the Open Sewer (now a tourist destination.) Just in the nick of time, a new command is bellowed from the leader’s Segway, “Every child deserves Flippety-Floppety Learning! We must scale this innovation at once! “

Any distinctions between teaching and learning have been forgotten long ago. Many Post-It Notes will now be affixed to walls. Masters degree programs scramble to offer new courses on Flippety-Floppety Learning. EdD students write dissertations based on asking a dozen of their colleagues their opinions of FFL. While a minority of villagers debate the origins of FFL, the industrious set out to quickly publish the first Flippety-Floppy Learning Handbook for teachers. That book will be celebrated for its breezy tone and refusal to be bogged down by pesky bibliographic references or recognition of similar efforts in the past.

Schools hire guitar playing convocation speakers to project YouTube videos in which teachers sing the song they wrote about FFL during their faculty meeting. Grad school professors teach their students to tweet reasons they love Flippety-Floppety Learning to those who have yet to be bitten by the FFL bug. Districts find money in the sofa cushions to employ Flippety-Floppety Learning Coaches. Conference programs are full of presentations like, “Everyone Get Flippety-Floppety,”  “Seven Tips for Flippety-Floppety Learning in Your Classroom,” and “Drop and Give Me Twenty: How FFL Can Transform Physical Education.”

Despite its infancy and unproven status as the latest solution in search of a problem, Isteeville will soon be littered with rubrics and calls for Flippety-Floppety Standards. No one is quite sure if FFL is a good idea, but urgent calls go out for ways to measure fidelity to the latest bright idea. Tomorrow, we must commence training teachers how to do it, regardless of merit or being sure what it is, before someone else concocts a new thingy to capture our attention.

A season passes. All of this educator fueled mania sure is swell, but Flippety-Floppety Learning isn’t scaling up quickly enough to satisfy the next round of investors. So, something must be done! 

The kingdom’s elders shout with glee, “Let’s do what we’ve always done!” BUY MORE!

The End