Paradigm Shifting with Jesus

 Paradigm Shifts aren’t easy, and if you want to create one, I think the wrong place to start is with the question, “How do I make a paradigm shift?” Or for purposes of this article, “How do I make a paradigm shift in elementary school education?” 

I think a genuine paradigm shift is a result of proposing a solution--offering a model to answer a specific question, or respond to a certain need--that actually works. It has to work. 

The challenge of offering an alternative to any conventional problem is that period of time (a time of testing) between the proposal of the model and the acceptance of the model by society. Jesus tells a story to communicate the difficulty he had in bringing about a paradigm shift to his generation. His coded speech has a universal appeal to it and highlights the common issue - most people like what they think is the best, and what is best is often what they’re already used to.

Luke 5:36 He told them a parable also: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it upon an old garment; if he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new; for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
The Agriculture class not only learns about the production of food, but also the responsibility that comes with that power.  Here they are delivering fresh produce from our garden to widows who live just down the street from GOD Elementary.  

The Agriculture class not only learns about the production of food, but also the responsibility that comes with that power.  Here they are delivering fresh produce from our garden to widows who live just down the street from GOD Elementary.  

Decoding Jesus’ speech highlights the difficulty people have in accepting a paradigm shift. He points out that the shift is something ‘new,’ and the ‘new’ won’t work if it’s synthesized with the ‘old.’  In fact, he shows that trying to incorporate the ‘new’ with what is already there causes destruction to the existing system. 

In this case, sewing the ‘new’ piece of material onto the ‘old’ garment eventually causes harm to the garment because it lacks the flexibility to adjust to the necessary changes of the ‘new’ as it matures. The existing system is too rigid to accept the new way that would resolve the issue of the tear. So, people stuck on the ‘old’ believe that reformation, or patching up the existing system with conventional, traditionally held beliefs, is enough. 

Jesus also illustrates that the ‘old’ wineskin won’t be a framework that can survive the changes that come with the ‘new’ wine, a liquid that over time, matures and necessitates a flexible system (new wineskin). The necessary, adaptable qualities for an effective vessel (framework) are absent, and if  ‘new’ wine were to be poured into it, the wine itself would become destructive to the existing framework. 

Jesus is teaching that a paradigm shift necessitates a transformation of the model itself, not just a reformation of existing models, but a totally new vessel. A paradigm shift is something fresh that can’t fit into the existing models conventionally available. Though conventional models serve a purpose, and societies grow comfortable with the taste, Jesus is challenging the effectiveness of these models to handle the newness that comes with the times and seasons of life--the new challenges that come with the next generation. He emphasizes that any integration of the paradigm shift and the existing model would lead to the destruction of the existing model itself. 

Adelaide Sofolo (l) and Esther Bargatze (r) enjoy collaborative education on the iPad

Adelaide Sofolo (l) and Esther Bargatze (r) enjoy collaborative education on the iPad

It’s interesting… is Jesus saying that his new way will eventually destroy the need for the existing, conventional model? I think so. He ends his speech by observing that people who have grown comfortable with the taste of their present systems will have no desire to entertain the possibility for such transformation. The paradigm shift that makes ready for the ‘new’ is nothing to be desired, because to them the ‘old’ is good enough. In other words, why risk so much on a new paradigm that is untested and not established, when what’s being done seems to work just fine.

I was pretty young when I started thinking about education as a qualitative component to the transformation of a society. My own educational experience offered me plenty of critiques to the existing system, but it wasn’t until my daughter Genesis was born that I had to start thinking about the implementation of a more appropriate system. I had to ask questions like, “How could this happen practically, and would such a plan serve her any better than the models of education that already exist?” At that time I had experience teaching in both the public and private sector and was familiar with some of the more distinguished philosophical approaches from Waldorf to Montessori, but I lacked the experience as a parent in the present systems.

Though classes have practical lessons, there are also character lessons to be taught. In Building Class students learn patience and self-control as they realize that in order to ‘build,’ they must practice doing the little things well.

Though classes have practical lessons, there are also character lessons to be taught. In Building Class students learn patience and self-control as they realize that in order to ‘build,’ they must practice doing the little things well.

Ten years later, after having my two older kids in a variety of educational systems, and witnessing the less than adequate experiences of my friends’ kids in school, G.O.D. Elementary was launched as a response to those observed failures in the public and private sector of elementary schools. 

There are several philosophical and pragmatic distinctives to our program. In this edition I’ve written some of the philosophical ones, but here I’ll list some of the pragmatic ones:  no letter grades, no grade levels, no worksheets for homework, no lecturing for more than 50% of the class time, individuated attention that allows for the same assignment to be completed differently by each student and it all be acceptable, foreign language learning beginning in kindergarten (i.e., Hebrew & Spanish), classes like Chores, Manners, and Coding (Programming)… to name a few.

Every generation brings about its challenges and meeting these new challenges requires the ‘systems’ creators’ to adjust their framework and appropriately respond. Even if it means tearing down the present structures to build new ones, there has to be brave enough people to have the kind of faith to see what has yet to be seen. 

My 1-year-old can navigate her mom’s iPhone and find her favorite game or her favorite show, my 3-year-old can record video and edit it to share with his siblings on his iPad, my 8-year-old wrote a rap song, recorded and published it virtually, and my 11-year-old has uploaded a tutorial on how to do some complicated hairstyles for dancers on the world wide web. The age of information technology has presented to us some great benefits, but there are also major problems attached, especially if we don’t act responsibly to educate this next generation. They need to understand the necessary ethical considerations that will help them navigate the woes of virtual reality and over-simplified access to ‘answers’ that they seem to have on the other side of an internet connection. 

The new wine is here and our school systems are failing them. The school systems can’t contain them. Kids are not thriving in schools. They are bored, unhappy, and unenthusiastic about their educational process. Students are being taught things that their parents needed to know and not the things they need to know to thrive at this time in history. 

GOD Elementary is a preview of the new wineskin that is paradigm shifting elementary education. There’s so much to share, but it’s the test of time, a test we’re willing to take, that will truly prove whether or not such a statement is presumptuous. However, let me say, that for myself and the 42 other teachers directly involved in the project… we believe.