Peter Senge, in a 1995 interview, suggested schools and school systems are not learning organizations. He went as far to call them oppressive places with little learning happening. More recently, he indicated most organizations do not encourage personal mastery, vital to learning organizations. Personal mastery is not to be confused with learning for the sake of learning. It is the underlying passion and spirit of learning we undertake as learners. It ignites a fire in the belly of the learner.
Issues such as centrally dictated, fixed curricula, enforced professional development, hierarchical leadership , the roles people and community play in the 21st Century educational enterprises, and relationships within the systems we call ‘school systems’ must be reexamined. Yes, there is an urgency; however not at the price that bureaucratic efficiencies exact. Effective dialogue needs to consider the urgency of time and the quality of what emerges from the time spent in dialogue. To achieve this, I believe we need a new, flatter, leaner organization to emerge in public education doing away with arcane bureaucracies and technocracies currently existing and stifling the learning of all learners thus limiting what can be accomplished collaboratively. I am not suggesting a cookie cutter process. This journey requires courage, effort, and a shaking up of the status quo.
Learning organizations are places where
people expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire [shared vision], where new and expansive patterns of thinking [mental models] are nurtured, where the collective is set free [personal mastery], and where people are continually learning how to learn together [team learning] (Senge, 2006, p. 3).
Is it possible to not merely change the 21st Century schoolhouse, but transform it? Have we created new mental models, developed a passion through personal mastery, developed a shared vision, and engaged in team learning?
O’Neil J. (1995). On schools as learning organizations: A conversation with Peter Senge. Educational Leadership 52 (7). 20 – 23. Retrieved July 27, 2010 from Academic Search Complete database. (AN 9505023473).
Senge, P. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday.