Large-scale education was not developed to motivate kids or to create scholars. It was invented to churn out adults who worked well within the system. Scale was more important than quality, just as it was for most industrialists.
As we get ready for the ninety-third year of universal education, here's the question every parent and taxpayer needs to wrestle with: Are we going to applaud, push, or even permit our schools (including most of the private ones) to continue the safe but ultimately doomed strategy of churring out predictable, testable, and mediocre factory workers?
The question I'd ask every administrator and school board is, "Does the curriculum you teach now make our society stronger?"
Culture changes to match the economy, not the other way around...schools remain focused on yesterday's needs.
We waste our time and the time of our students when we set them up with pipe dreams that don't empower them to adapt (or better yet, lead) when the world doesn't work out as they hope. The dreams we need are self-reliant dreams. We need dreams based not on what is but on what might be. We need students who can learn, who can discover how to push themselves and are generous enough and honest enough to engage with the outside world to make those dreams happen.
Amplified by the Web and the connection revolution, human beings are no longer rewarded most for work as compliant cogs. Instead, our chaotic world is open to the work of passionate individuals, intent on carving their own paths.
There really are only two tools available to the educator. The easy one is fear. The other is passion. Passion can overcome fear - the fear of losing, of failing, of being ridiculed. Passion that funnels dreams and creates change must come from the individual, not from a demigod.
Once we start to do schooling differently, we'll start to get something different.
What's needed from the teacher is no longer high-throughput lectures or test scoring or classroom management. No, what's needed is individual craftsmanship, emotional labor, and the ability to motivate.
The role of the teacher in this new setting is to inspire, to intervene, and to raise up the motivated but stuck student. Instead of punishing great teachers with precise instructions on how to spend their day, we give them the freedom to actually teach.
Every great teacher you have ever had the good luck of learning from is doing the irreplaceable labor of real teaching. They are communicating emotion, engaging, and learning from the student in return. Emotional labor is difficult and exhausting, and it cannot be tweaked or commanded by management.
School serves a real function when it activates a passion for lifelong learning, not when it establishes permanent boundaries for an elite class.
The two pillars of a future-proof education: Teach kids how to lead and help them learn how to solve interesting problems.
Teach a kid to write without fear and you have given her a powerful tool for the rest of her life. Teach a kid to write boring book reports and standard drivel and you've taken something precious away from a student who deserves better.
When we teach a child to make good decisions, we benefit from a lifetime of good decisions. When we teach a child to love to learn, the amount of learning will become limitless. When we teach a chid to deal with a changing world, she will never become obsolete. When we are brave enough to teach a child to question authority, even ours, we insulate ourselves from those who would use their authority to work against each of us. And when we give students the desire to make things, even choices, we create a world filled with makers.Even if you don't agree with a lot of what he has to say, it is well worth your time. School as we know it, is not working...hopefully this will spark enough discussion/questions that the status quo will no longer be OK.