A popular conversation-starter among educators is: “If schools did not exist, and you were asked to create them. What would they look like?”

The attraction of a question such as this is that it bypasses the idea-blocking fact that we do have schools. We cannot create them. We must change them. So, the power of the question is that it effectively sets that fact aside. It removes the idea-blocker that we need to change what we currently have.

When considering this question, there is a first leap that most educators make. And it’s quite a big leap. Most folks choose to leave the physical structure behind. Yep, if they can start building a school from scratch – it would not be a building. It brings to mind an economics professor I had who leapt onto his desk one day and shouted at us: “A market is not a place!” I’m sure that single message was imprinted on every one of the 150 or so stunned undergrads in the auditorium-classroom.

So, a school is not a place. Oh yeah, better finish the economics story. A market exists wherever and whenever you have a buyer and a seller. Put this in educational terms and you have: a school exists wherever and whenever you have a teacher and a learner.

There is another idea-blocker we can remove through our comparison of markets to schools. Visualize the participants in a market, both have something of value to offer. Right? Perhaps one has a used car and the other has paper money. I suggest that while we are throwing the “school as a place” idea-blocker out, let’s also shed the “one person giving knowledge to another” idea-blocker. How does your visualization of a school change if you see both parties bringing things of value to school?

If school is not a building. And, it’s not the act of one person giving knowledge to another. Then, what is it?

I will leave you here because I think we should ponder that for a while. As you ponder, I suggest you consider the meaning of the word “knowledge.” And ask yourself: Is it possible for one person to give knowledge to another person?