Whenever I have been involved in a discussion about improving teaching in K-12 schools, someone almost always notes how the “pendulum swings”. By this statement, they mean that efforts to improve schooling swing back and forth and anything “new” is just a return to something that’s been tried in the past. Of course, the tone of the comment indicates that what was tried in the past did not work. Unfortunately, it is easier to blame the “new” idea/strategy rather than looking at ourselves to see how we might have implemented poorly, but this is not my point.
Many of us (well, me anyway) are fascinated by the coin funnels we occasionally come across. You know, when the coin gets rolled down a ramp and rolls around a large funnel getting closer and closer to the middle and finally spinning wildly down the tube and ending with a clink as it joins its brethren inside the darkness. Imagine you could watch the coin from the side (e.g. a cross-section of the funnel). The coin would oscillate back and forth – much like a pendulum. Yet, we know the coin is not merely oscillating but spinning closer and closer to its final goal. We know this because we have greater perspective.
Perhaps those who complain about the pendulum simply don’t have enough perspective. They don’t see how every “new” idea gets us closer and closer to the goal.