Monday, June 18, 2007

Stop Tinkering, It’s Time for Real School Restructuring

A week and a half ago I spoke at the TeraGrid 07 conference. The topic was the role the TeraGrid community could play in educational reform. There were a number of points to the talk. Important to looking at where education is today, is the fact that in 1893 the NEA convened a group of 10 white men, the Committee of 10 to make recommendations about the curriculum that should be offered to high school students. Their basic recommendations, made to reflect their 1893 view of public education, look very like the high school graduation requirements in place today.

There are two organizations that are talking about what is necessary to prepare students for the 21st Century. The 21st Century Schools and 21st Century Skills Project but both of them are only offering minor modifications to the existing school curriculum and none are suggesting significant revision of the program of studies recommended in 1893! Neither of them shows any awareness of the role technology is playing and is expected to take on in this century.

I dont see any of the better known or financed school reform or school restructuring efforts looking to make major changes in the status quo. They tinker around the edges, but accept the basic structure of education as defined in the 19th Century. Does that make any sense?

I'm proposing that we create a new vision for education. That we take what we know about how people learn and what we see as the skills and knowledge necessary to survive in a flatter and more technology oriented world and design an education program that prepares our citizenry for that.

Note that I didn’t say we create new courses or new schools. I believe that even using those terms to describe this new vision starts to put boxes on the vision. I've identified some of the people I'd like to see involved in creating that vision, and I can assure you it’s not just a group of old white men. But I also don’t think that there’s only one "correct" vision. I hope that one vision will lead others to create their own visions, and those will bring about further discussion.

I also believe that by presenting a vision of what the education can/should be like, we’ll see movement toward that vision in the way we currently educate our citizenry.

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