Vol. LXXV (2017) - No. 267 Despertad al diplodocus. Una conspiración educativa para transformar la escuela y todo lo demás [Wake the diplodocus: An educational conspiracy to transform the school and everything else].
Marina, J. A. (2016).
Despertad al diplodocus. Una conspiración educativa para transformar la escuela y todo lo demás
[Wake the diplodocus: An educational conspiracy to transform the school and everything else].
Barcelona: Ariel. 219 pp.
Can we improve the Spanish educational system in a short time period? This is the question José Antonio Marina tries to answer in this book, where he compares the Spanish education system with a great sleeping diplodocus that must be woken. Doing this requires doing something that is only possible if we all work together, every citizen of this country, not just those of us who work in education.
It is a call to action, educational mobilisation, uniting to move in the same direction in a turbulent period when learning is more important than ever. The book contains 219 pages of arguments for improving education in our country, for undertaking an educational change over a five-year period that is perfectly justified in the first chapter. A change that envisages «expert in learning» as the profession of the future as part of the appearance of a new science «of cultural evolution and pedagogical progress», which will act as a guide to society’s learning and will make it aware that it must continue to learn. Educational mobilisation has already begun; there are ever more initiatives that transform educational reality, and guided by educational professionals, it is in our hands to take advantage of this opportunity, to propose a shared and debated process of reflection and implement its actions at all levels, as if we do not, others to whom this task does not correspond will take charge of it.
Throughout its pages, there is a large collection of «lived experience boxes» full of innovative educational experiences, based on scientific evidence, that are already being carried out in schools over the world.
While Marina defines himself as an «educational megalomaniac» who recognises his inability to make his dream reality, he knows that the only way of producing a phenomenon is by increasing the probabilities of it occurring. Therefore, he dedicates chapters three to seven to each of the agents of the change that he considers to be key.
Chapter one considers the complexity of implementing an educational change and the question of who should manage it. Two important concepts are used: on the one hand, the fact that a system comprises distinct elements and that each of them has an influence on the whole, and, on the other hand, that before anything else, three elements are needed for a change to occur: believing it is necessary, wanting to do it, and knowing how to do it. Therefore, before offering solutions, Marina tries to stimulate forces to drive these solutions.
However, motivation is no use if there are not clear targets to aim for. Therefore, Marina proposes five objectives that might make a coherent, realistic, and inspiring guide for those who want to join in with the change: reducing the school drop-out rate to 10% compared with the current 21.9%, climbing by 35 points in the PISA scale, thus putting us on a par with countries like Finland, increasing the number of excellent students, and reducing the distance between the best and the worst, facilitating a situation where all students can attain their max- imum personal development regardless of their economic situation, and fi encouraging the acquisition of twenty-first century skills, such as emotional intelligence.
Chapter two proposes a model of intelligence for pedagogical change that emanates not from amateurs but from experts in the subject. In Spain’s recent history, there have been attempts to transform education using laws of dubious rigour and with minimal agreement that are of little use for the twenty-first century. In light of this problem, the above-mentioned science of cultural evolution should appear, showing its capacity for the school to reach its economic, cultural, social, and personal objectives, taking advantage of all scientific discoveries and integrating them into our culture. However, far from providing directions, what will most define this science is its ability to teach its citizens to manage their intelligence and capacities so that they can learn and solve problems all through their life.
From the third chapter onwards, the agents of change start to be discussed; the first of these is the school. The training future teachers receive will depend on the value we place on education, and the teachers we have will largely depend on the success of the educational system. In Spain, teaching is not an elite profession, like medicine or engineering, and our objective should be for it to become one like in the countries with the world’s best educational systems. Consequently, the relationship between the school and the university is inescapable.
Each management team must act as a true team, intelligently and pulling in the same direction. Every single one of their members must feel that they form part of a team that has been formed for a purpose that is bigger than them as individuals: facilitating the integrated development of new generations. They must definitively become organisations that learn, and must be true allies for the students who also have something to say in the trans- formation of the centres. We cannot make changes that silence their true protagonists.
Chapter four adds another ally: the family, «the second prime engine of change». School and home must be united, sharing a pedagogy that favours their cooperation and mutually helping each other. Marina sees the family as a micro-system within the macro-system in which the child develops physically, emotionally, linguistically, and cognitively, and so without the involvement of the family, what is done at school will probably fail. If we claim that improving teacher training is a prerequisite for educational success, perhaps we should do the same with the other agents, and, if this is not posible, the school should offset shortcomings in the family.
Teachers, parents, and students live in a certain setting, somewhere that has an influence on every one of them, and precisely because of that is part of the educational system. These are cities, the third engine of change, the implications of which are discussed in chapter five. The city, according to Marina, is a fine example of shared team intelligence and its success is because it supports the happiness of its inhabitants. If cities contribute to the intellectual, emotional, cultural, and economic well-being of their citizens, it is not possible to separate the objectives of the school from those of the city, both being jointly responsible for change and for mobilising all citizens to meet these objectives.
Chapter six is dedicated to the world of business, the fourth engine for change as organisations that learn can extrapolate their capacity to promote and invest in talent, be results-oriented, define their vision, mission, and culture, and work in a team, things that can be unfamiliar to those who run the educational system. Furthermore, if schools are the place for children and businesses are places for adults, the transition from one to the other will be less of a shock.
The seventh and final chapter refers to the last link in the system and engine of change: the state. A good knowledge of which functions correspond to the central state and which to the regional governments in the running of Spain’s educational system would solve most of the legislative failures that have marked recent years. A state agreement on education could involve the agreement we have been awaiting for so long, although good management of the new measures by the agents mentioned above is still necessary. The state must promote education, finance it, manage it, and achieve a real learning society. The opinion of experts in these measures and an increase in funding until it represents 5% of GDP, would be two key elements that would contribute to the quality of the educational system.
The book concludes by noting that substantial changes are produced by the synergy of small changes that, while not very visible on the large scale, proliferate increasingly in Spanish classrooms. One teacher can change a class but many can transform the system. This work is a brilliant proposal for doing this with our system (so long as we work together).
Aída Valero ■