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Unclear about whether you are advocating for accepting Fullan's views

Posted By: Ross Mitchell on April 25, 2017
Prof. Heckman:

If I understand this review, which I'm not sure I do, it seems to warn against believing that Fullan's views are wholly sensible.

I take it that the reason for this warning is that all of school practice is embedded in an institutional environment that continues to express its meaning and intentions through a long-established and largely unrecognized (perhaps, unreflectively internalized) grammar of schooling. And, this grammar of schooling, in a Sapir-Whorf-like fashion, reconfigures efforts to change, reform, or transform practice--that this persistent grammar of schooling inhibits realization of what Fullan advocates.

I wonder if the following quotation from the review is a segue from Fullan's view of how to affect the "whole system" to how the "whole system" lacks a coherent language (new grammar) through which to communicate the new meanings and intentions that Fullan would have us incorporate into our school practices.

"In The New Meaning of Educational Change, Fullan makes clear his meanings for collaboration, partnership, deep learning, educational changes, and the changes necessary for whole system improvements. Each area, separately and together, is critical for vibrant schooling improvement arrangements."

Are we unable to truly reimagine or reform the "whole system" due to a Sapir-Whorf-like theory-praxis trap? In other words, I'm wondering if the critique is that we need a new language-culture for schooling, not just an understanding of foreign meanings communicated to us in our long-established language-culture (the dominant grammar of schooling). The following quotations would suggest that we are failing to see what is implicit or hidden in the purported dominant grammar of schooling.

"There is no reason to believe that these [inhibitory] regularities and grammar no longer exist in today’s schools."
"The hidden curriculum of schooling influences students [and school practitioners] in unintended ways."

If I get this correctly, I am left with a missing declaration about whether I ought to learn and attempt to enact Fullan's views. Namely, has Fullan provided any thinking or organizing tools for helping to recognize whether one is caught in the Sapir-Whorf-like trap of trying to understand, enact, and interpret necessary changes with the wrong language-culture? Or, is it left up to me find language-culture interpreters and informants through my own insights with no help from Fullan?

To press the analogy further, should I infer that we are unable to take up Fullan's views because we are trying to become members of another language-culture without any natives of that language-culture available to point out that we still aren't getting how life is lived differently? (As a specific analogy: Can we learn what it means to live like someone who is, if not be, Chinese while living in the USA and speaking only English?)

Would it be fair to extrapolate from the review that you are trying to say that the grammar of schooling in the USA is a language-culture that American educators cannot escape without the opportunity to learn, practice, and live in a new language-culture (grammar) of schooling?

If my suggested extrapolation is correct--that it is pointing out the need to make explicit and fundamentally change institutional language-cultures, something which turns out to be far harder than Fullan would have us believe--then I would ask, for the sake of making a practical difference, what are the various means through which language and culture change?

Working within the language-culture perspective, I could imagine colonial imperialism having the capacity to leverage change. Mass migration can leverage change. Study abroad can leverage change, as can sequestered simulation (i.e., voluntary--rather than imperially coerced--submission to experiencing an alternative language-culture outside of that language-culture's native land--a pseudo-migration on a small scale). In addition to these, I suspect there are other means by which to transform language-cultures, all with different prospects for more or less rapid change (and a variety of associated consequences).

Is this the line of analogical reasoning we should follow? Or, have I just spun a tale too far afield of where this review would have me go?

Ross E. Mitchell
School of Education
University of Redlands

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 Unclear about whether you are advocating for accepting Fullan's views by Ross Mitchell on April 25, 2017
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