Light Offerings

What Spielberg’s Lincoln can help us understand about education

Posted by jturner56 on March 1, 2013

(Spoiler Alert)

Last weekend, having sat through Spielberg’s Lincoln, I was taken by how it spoke to political thinking whatever the issue. While acknowledging the historical inaccuracies and the essence of it being an interpretation (how this is different from any other history writing I leave for others), and also acknowledging the power of Day-Lewis’ take on the character, I want to just look at what the political process of abolishing slavery through the US constitution can tell us as we debate educational change.

First point is that slavery / universal suffrage touched Lincoln’s soul to a level where he was willing to risk political failure. Success (and in Lincoln’s case greatness) came at great risk (as subsequent events clearly demonstrated).

Second, he lived in practical times and understood what was attainable and where opening such doors might lead. So, while driven by his soul, compromise was a central part of his political ability. He knew he had to touch others in many and varied ways while being true to his bigger picture commitment.

Third, the vote only succeeding by two votes after great political machinations that were dubious to say the least. Reminded me of when 1:1 laptops first came into schools on a very close vote. Only history will tell us what is valued.

We cannot expect all to be on board with any change, but by better understanding risk, compromise, boundaries and history we can better see the power that is education and the future we wish for all. We need to look inside as much as outside when weighing up our advocacy.

We sometime can get lost if we just narrow our line of sight to either  individual practical matters, school community dynamics or wider societal role of schools. It is through combination that we can educate.

This was reinforced when I was talking with fellow teachers who I am working with on Action research projects. I asked them to reflect on what their core reason for undertaking action research into digital learning was. To find better tools? To find better ways to use such tools in class? To find better teaching and learning practices? To change to school’s view. To influence educational approach. Through such questions we can hopefully define our fields of inquiry and action.

As we consider how we might wish to effect educational change, how far as educator are we willing to go, and which boundaries (real and/or perceived) do we work within? Will we ever see a Lincoln in education?


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