If I were to contemplate, like so many other bloggers seem to do today, the failings of today’s education system, all of my thoughts could redirect to on word – small-mindedness (I hyphenated it so it might be two words but not the point).
Friends, Teachers, Pundits! Lend me your ears! I come to bury education not to fix it!
I don’t mean that literally. I mean it is time for sweeping change. For goodness sake we need to move on or be left behind. And when I say “we” I mean the education establishment. It’s time to quit looking over our shoulders and trying to stay one step ahead of Big Brother. Or more precisely Big, Rich Brother. We are the people who know children. We are the one’s who can change the system. And we will change the system for one reason: It’s what’s best for kids.
I remember my parents telling me when I was in college that “sometimes you have to play the game.” Agreed. Sometimes. But not when the game hurts students, when the game keeps us mired in the past, when the game is designed to favor the rich, when the game puts more money in the pockets of millionaires and billionaires, when the game widens the opportunity gap, its time to take our ball and go home (figuratively!).
It is time for us to open up our minds. It is time for us to realize our power. It is time for us to look into the future and see what our students will see. Then we must ready ourselves to prepare them for it. It will not be easy; it will be disruptive. There probably won’t be a canned formula for any student’s success. We will have to be creative. We will have to allow our students to be creative. We will be nurturers and facilitators and cautious bystanders. Dr. Watson to our students’ Sherlock and Mr. Watson to our student Alexander Graham Bell. Charlie to President Bartlett?
Its not for the weak of heart or the small of mind. But do you want to look back and see that you didn’t prepare students for their futures because of someone’s political aspirations? Someone’s padded back account? Because of fear of falling behind internationally? Because of Big, Rich Brother? I think not!
Google “21st Century Skills.” Go ahead, I’ll wait. What did you find? Did it say anything about how standardized testing will prepare children for the future? Where there any sites that said that improving standards would improve student success in the future? Anywhere did it say that the best thing we could do for students is narrow the curriculum even more?
I didn’t think so.
What it says is we need to teach students to think. We need to teach them to create. We need them to be able to draw a map not follow a map and we need them to tap into their own unique genius. Students will have to navigate devices that haven;t even been invented yet. They will have to collaborate – try to test that! Communication – aside on communication great TED talk on texting as new language – in languages that we aren’t teaching. Communicating in ways that we never thought of (John McWhorter talk above).
My biggest fear in education is that while we fight about what is best for kids, the 21st century is coming and we can’t stop it as hard as we might try. My biggest fear is that while we wait to be told what to do our students are falling further behind. It’s time to stand up, grow a backbone and do what we know is right.