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ERIC Number: EJ843761
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jun
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0031-7217
Tinkering Change vs. System Change
Hubbard, Russ
Phi Delta Kappan, v90 n10 p745-747 Jun 2009
In this article, the author makes a distinction between two kinds of change: tinkering change and systemic change. Tinkering change includes reforms intended to address a specific deficiency or practice. Such tinkering change can be contrasted to what Shakespeare termed "sea change" in "The Tempest" ("a sea change into something rich and strange") and what some writers refer to as "system" or "systemic" change. System change, or systemic change, or sea change, is change to the overall structure and mission of an institution. To consider a sea change, individuals need to examine why their society has schools at all, what they want to accomplish in them, and what makes success difficult to achieve. What disrupts the accomplishment of the education of youth? The answer, of course, is youth: youth forced against their will to be in this class at that time during the day. The result in middle schools and high schools is an inordinate amount of time and energy spent managing classrooms and disciplining unruly students. Tinkering changes to address the issue include in-school suspension, mandatory meetings with parents, and unwritten contracts between teachers and disruptive students that if the students won't disrupt, the teacher won't try to teach them. A system change would be to repeal compulsory school attendance laws for children over the age of, say, 13. If education were truly the primary purpose of public secondary schooling, then the teaching-learning process would be sacrosanct. The author suggests: 1) repeal compulsory attendance laws for secondary school-age students; and 2) jettison the age-grade organization of elementary schools. Such change proposals require that the society look hard at why it has schools at all and what it wants to accomplish in them.
Phi Delta Kappa International. 408 North Union Street, P.O. Box 789, Bloomington, IN 47402-1789. Tel: 800-766-1156; Fax: 812-339-0018; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: High Schools; Middle Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A