I believe paradox is essential for educational transformation. Parker Palmer described paradox as a creative tension or “a way of holding opposites together that creates an electric charge that keeps us awake” in his book The Courage to Teach. He argued “the poles of a paradox are like the poles of a battery: hold them together, and they generate the energy of life, pull them apart, and the current stops flowing…and we become lifeless.” I elaborated on paradox in my posts Abundant Community and Paradox of Community. I propose paradox be used to revitalize the institution we call school and the conversations about this necessary enterprise.
Parker Palmer in The Courage to Teach presented six paradoxes and identified ways in which they could serve us in the classroom through pedagogical design. I believe they serve educators and their communities as foundations for conversations and a long overdue transformation.
The first paradox is “the space should be bounded and open.” School cannot be a one size fits all approach, but it cannot be a chaotic, wide-open system. There are many ways to understand school from home schooling to traditional. In between, there is diversity. Is school a building? Could it be a virtual gathering? Could it be a combination? Rigid boundaries should be replaced by flexible boundaries. If they do, then we can ask, “What serves the child?” What serves the community?”
Over the next while, I will look at each paradox, and explore how they lead conversations towards transformation.