School: A Privileged Place

Have you ever had a a book on your “to read” list for a long (really long) time, and when you finally read it, you stop several times, close the book, then your eyes, and just think about the implications of what you read?

I had such an experience in reading Jean Lave and Etienne Wagner’s 1991 Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. It is telling that my copy is from the 24th printing in 2011. The book has been referenced in many works I have read. I had connected with the ideas in the book and they have become a part of my practice, but I never read the book—until 2020.

screenshor of book cover

At this point, I believe I will be rereading it before I can fully write about it. The sentence that most resonated with me is on page 61. Lave and Wenger suggest “At the very least, schooling is given a privileged role in intellectual development.”

Perhaps it is because “privilege” has been such a high-profile concept in recent years as we (collectively) have begun to understand privilege and how it affects our view of life and work and organizations and other people. We all benefit from identifying and questioning privilege, or at least those of us value human capacity benefit when we question privilege.

Especially with the changing structure and functions of schooling in 2020, it is time we re-conceptualize learning as something that is ground in the learner and their interactions with ideas and the world. We can no longer justify the privileged place of curriculum and those who control it. Lave and Wenger’s work arrived in my hands just when my mind was primed for it and the situation in the world gave it renewed relevance.