May 31, 2012

“I would suggest that one reason education reform has not worked is that it almost always treats these dimensions as separate and tries to reform one or another–the choice depending on who is doing the reforming. Curriculum reformers try to put new curriculum in an otherwise unchanged system but ignore the fact that the old curriculum really suits the system and reverts to type as soon as the reformers turn their backs. Similarly, when reformers introduce new forms of management of the old approach to knowledge and learning, the system quickly snaps back to its state of equilibrium. And, perhaps most dramatically from the point of view of people in this room, the same kind of process undermines any attempt to change education by putting a lot of computers into otherwise unchanged schools.”

Curator’s note: Yesterday, I delivered the closing keynote at a a conference on the site where Papert delivered this amazing speech nearly twenty-two years ago. I cannot walk into what was then a brand new convention center without thinking of Papert’s words or the fact that it was within that building where I gave my first of countless talks in Australia since 1990. Since that World Conference in 1990, I have returned to Australia 50 times or so and earned a Ph.D. in my “second country.” The Sydney Convention Center launched my career in Australia and is where I made friends that have lasted for decades.

Papert. S. (1990, July). Perestroika and Epistemological Politics. Speech presented at the World Conference on Computers in Education. Sydney, Australia.

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