Voices in Education

“Platooning” and the Industrial Model of Schooling
“Platooning” is another example of the intensification of the factory model of schooling which ignores most of what we’ve learned from scientific psychology about how human beings learn and grow (see “‘Platooning’ Instruction”). Platooning says that subject matter knowledge is more important than the relationship that teachers develop with children and the learning community that teachers and children create together in the classroom. A teacher who claims that she can have the same quality of relationship with 50 six-year-olds that she might have with 25 of them is likely someone who is not particularly attentive to relationship in the first place.

In the 1920s we created junior highs because we knew that early adolescents needed more personal care than older adolescents. But junior highs became the same as high schools.

In the 1960s we tried again with middle schools. Pretty much the same result.

Now as our political leaders, who are routinely ignorant men and a few women when it comes to scientific psychology, confuse the map with the territory—that is, test scores with actual education—the pressure is on to move the alienating forms of the secondary school, which don’t even serve adolescents particularly well, into the elementary grades.

All this in a nation where 30 percent of the kids drop out of high school, with about 70 percent of them saying they quit because high school is oppressive and/or irrelevant.

By the way, I find the choice of the word “platooning” to describe a subject-centric organization in elementary grades to be quite instructive of the intent of the folks who champion this movement. A platoon is “a subdivision of a company of soldiers.”

About the Author: David Marshak is a lecturer in the Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies and the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University, in Bellingham, Washington, and is a professor emeritus at Seattle University.