Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tear down that wall?

What a task, to unite related ideas and get support for a whole new way of doing school. There is, for example, a deep connection between Project-Based Learning and talent education, two great ideas that taste great together. But we need to connect the dots, make it look like something that could happen.

Project-based Learning is the foundation of a good educational system, and the skill-building part of education gathers around it, and feeds it. It's the skill-building that can draw much from what we know about talent -- see my first two posts. Expose kids to ideas like treats at a buffet table, let them choose and taste and consider. Give them the freedom to feel the spark of motivation, then let them fly at a course of inquiry with all the resources they could possibly need.

What kids learn doesn't matter. What matters is how they learn it. Let other people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on education doctorates so they can learn how to make a curriculum. Let educational administrators write and rewrite standards like the Maine Learning Results. That seems like a big yawner to me. When you start a conversation about how kids learn, you're on your way to creating a better school system.

But it's awful to contemplate how to do this. I'm not equipped to envision whole new systems. I cringe at the idea of trying to design it, and wish to heck one of those people who went to school for this stuff could do it for me.

Ah. Therein lies the rub. No good.

There is nothing that stands as the enemy of change quite like the comfort of even the most dysfunctional system. Even that system has the comfort of complaints. Common ground is enjoyable, even if it's entirely negative. Every dysfunctional system squeezes out some small number of kids who adapted and thrived, and are held up as proof that the system can work. It's wonderful how a very small bit of success is enough to teach us to be proud of a failing system.

We don't have anything to lose if we simply tear down the walls of the existing educational structures. Has anyone tried to build a house while living in it? I've done it a couple of times. It's a mess. Stacks of sheetrock on the floor of the kitchen. Sawdust in the cornflakes. Build an empty structure instead, and have kids and adults move into it, decide for themselves what furniture and accoutrements they need. To continue to need the current bathroom while moving in new fixtures is to create a deadlock wherein nothing gets done.

So is it the amateurs who will rebuild these systems in such a way that kids, who have loved learning since they first hit daylight, continue to love it all through childhood, into their teen years and beyond it? Possibly not every amateur; and to be fair, there are a lot of educational professionals who can foster change. Whoever they are, we look to those who consider first the minds of kids, and begin the new design from there.


  1. nice. so glad to have found you via @techfacil. looking forward to reading more..

  2. I don't post often. I find it hard to narrow in on all the ideas that are coming to me from various sources. I'm toying with an idea now about kids who break the big rules rather than the little ones....who are critical of a whole system, not just breaking little rules in order to be simply rebellious. Some kids are raised to see a whole system, and they have the advantage of being able to understand why they are being made unhappy at school. Others, without that capacity, simply know that they feel disrespected, so they rebel in a more aimless manner.