Friday, February 15, 2013

What Will It Take?

Today, an asteroid will zoom past the earth, narrowly avoiding a collision course that would take out an area roughly the size of the New York Metropolitan area.  We got lucky.  

We actually got REALLY lucky.  The fact is, we only knew about asteroid 2012 DA14 (click here to find out how to watch it) a year ago.  Scarier still, it is part of the mere 1% of objects that scientists think could potentially end life on earth.  If it were headed straight for us, we wouldn't have had time to prepare.  The best we could have done would have been to get out of the way and wait for the dust to settle.  

I bring this up because eventually, it just might be our fate.  At least, if education has anything to do with it.  

From my perspective, educational change is coming so slowly that it is going to take years before we catch up to where we should be today, and by then, we will be another couple of decades behind.  

What will it take to get things moving?  What will light a fire hot enough, bright enough, and smoky enough to signal the attention of those with the power to change things?  

It takes an event like Sandy Hook just to get people talking about serious gun control.  Even then, not much has happened.  The real changes that would need to take place to ensure kids are safe from being gunned down in their classrooms will not come anytime soon.  People would rather have high capacity murder machines than save one innocent life.  What kind of catastrophe will it take to motivate the United States to update its Industrial Revolution model school system?  

Shocking reports of failing national scores do little more than make people debate the validity of the tests and what the data means.  Comparisons to other countries that show us lagging behind only make people shout about different demographics as the cause.  A tanking economy - with businesses who want to hire but who can't find Americans with the skills they need - only gets people riled up about the  manufacturing and factory jobs that have gone overseas that these graduates used to be qualified for.  No one seems to realize that we need to prepare students today for different jobs.  Or, more accurately, no one is doing anything about that fact in our schools.  

Do we really want those factory jobs back?  Or, would we rather forge ahead and continue leading the world in innovation?  Apparently, neither.  

Instead, we keep right on churning out the "widgets" that are your children and mine.  We treat them like factory products.  We group them by age, run their lives with a bell schedule, give them mind-numbing busy work of repeated problems, and teach them to sit still and follow directions.  This was great when what we needed were obedient factory workers who didn't have to creatively solve problems, only do what they were told.  

But it isn't what we need today.  

Today, we need classrooms to be dynamic, social, interdisciplinary, multi-age, creative hubs outfitted with the digital tools that people actually use today to get their work done.  A modern classroom should involve real problems that students work together to solve.  They need to learn how to research, find things that will get the job done, and do it.  Kids should be able to go where they fit, not where they are surrounded by others who were born at approximately the same time.  

We need students who are willing and capable of working together to solve really big problems; like climate change, global poverty, population explosion and the ensuing fresh water shortage, terrible violence, and yes, even asteroids on a collision course with our home.  

Do you have a worksheet for that?  

So what will it take to get there?  What will it take before people realize that education is the only way to craft our future intentionally?  When will people finally wake up and realize that investing in children, although a long term investment, yields better results than anything else we could do for America?  

Do we want to make our future, or wait until an asteroid wakes us up?  

Never mind, I doubt even that would convince everyone that the education they received in 1950 isn't good enough for today's students.  

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