In the interest of full disclosure, let me state here that I am not an expert in the field of education or education reform. Expertise will come from the contributors. However, others have told me that I have come up with some unique and successful solutions to challenges and quandaries. That said, when called on to brainstorm a challenge in an industry I am unfamiliar with (a fairly common occurrence in marketing), I test my thoughts constantly against those who have the depth of experience that I lack. Where I can usually tell when I have gone off track, the solution I have developed in concept for the problems that public education face and cause have obviously gone well beyond where educators feel comfortable. So while they have not called me crazy, neither can they tell me that I am on target. However, based on the consistency of my thoughts over the past four years, I will trust my intuition and take the risk to convey the ideas I have been turning over and over. I will trust in those who read these thoughts to either suggest modifications, additions, or total abandonment. But to those tempted to recommend the latter, be forewarned that I will challenge you to come up with reasons why this will not work, and then ask for your solutions to get to the goal.
Looking at most education reform efforts, it strikes me that most of them are modifications of the 20th Century system. I propose a 21st Century system based on these objectives:
- Extend education throughout life. Make it a part of our daily lives and have it begin with birth and end soon after death.
- Take education out of centralized buildings (schools) and make it the responsibility of the family, community, nation, and the world.
- Leverage technology to enable everyone to have access to the same resources.
Already some of you reading this are thinking utopia. Wait until you read the scenario. But I am convinced that the hard part is not imagining what can be, it is getting there. The transition from where we are to where we ultimately need to be will be an uphill battle, for all the entrenched constituencies.
Let’s look at this from the perspective of the individual and step it out to the world.
World culture > US culture > US education system > Individuals
- Youth education is seen as a family function, augmented by a volunteer force of seniors, retirees, and experts available in the immediate and adjacent communities performing the roles of teacher, coach and mentor.
- Youth education begins in the home using modules with lessons for parent, child and siblings.
- Individual education is an individual’s obligation to society, advocated by federal law, supported by employers, communities and families.
- Course topics cross all philosophies, languages, religions and beliefs for the old and the young they are teaching.
- Team teaching is carried out in playgroups in neighborhoods in homes, community centers, parks and businesses. Groups of adults of all ages with similar interests meet in public and corporate settings as well as virtually within collaborative Web environments. Parents and children gather in homes and community centers, sharing interests and research and reporting progress among peers.
- When the individual exhibits enough maturity, progress is self-determined, self-monitored, and presented to the relevant communities for input and use by others.
- Learning happens in life: in the workplace, the libraries, on the farms, in the factories of the immediate and adjacent neighborhoods.
- Scheduling, networking and cross leveling of resources is supported online.
- Education is not seen as a formal stage of life, instead a life-long habit of reading, reflecting, exchanging and growing.
World culture > US culture > US education system
- Facilitates discussions about learning, living and life.
- Teaches self esteem, self-confidence and the value of improving one’s self, community, nation, world and legacy.
- Gradually returns school buildings to alternative uses.
World culture > US culture
- Gradually encourages lifelong learning
- Respect for generations, races and all differences is built into every person’s thinking as they learn to rely on more and more people in order to learn, to carry out their obligation.
- Understanding and respect for nationalities, beliefs, generations, races and all differences is built into every person’s thinking as they learn to rely on more and more people in order to learn, to carry out their obligation.
Obviously, there is a lot more to this than these bullets. But I suspect the picture begins to take shape for most, so let us start the discussion here and see where it goes.