Public Education: Start Again

If you could start from zero, what would public education look like?

We are not alone; this is encouraging!

Posted by Stephen Dill on September 22, 2008

I had the good fortune to be directed to TED Talks recently and started watching the videos.  The TED Talks (Technology, Entertainment and Design) I have heard and seen so far are all fantastic and well worth the time to listen/watch. I find them to be challenging and thought provoking, a direct hit to the brain!

Today I came across one from Sir Ken Robinson entitled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” 

Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson

In it, Sir Ken cites many of the same themes we have brought up here: schools are still focused on teaching the same information to all children at the same age in largely the same way with little regard or accommodation of individual learning styles or interests. He laments the hierarchy of subjects taught in every school system around the world. Sir Ken wonders why schools teach the head, but not the body. Why is dance not taught to young children? They dance. They love to dance! He points out that our old model of intelligence puts the most useful subjects to work are at the top of that hierarchy: math and science have precedence. This is not useful in preparing people to capitalize on their strengths and passions. Sir Ken says: 

“I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology. One in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future it won’t serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles upon which we are educating our children.” 

In an interview on a podcast I found called Phorecast, Sir Ken echoes the vision that education should continue throughout life, it should be intergenerational, and it should embrace the conduit for exchange called the Internet. 

“The only way we will do it [avert disaster] is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are, and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being so they can face this future. By the way, we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it.”

Isn’t reassuring to find that we are not alone in our vision, nor in our effort? I would welcome and appreciate a referral or introduction to Sir Ken Robinson.

Stephen Dill

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Mission: Gather the best minds, ponder the responses to starting over, decide a course, begin.

Posted by Stephen Dill on December 23, 2007

The idea for this forum has been a long time in coming. It began with an observation from the spouse of a preschool director. After hearing so many stories of what some parents called parenting, the following goal was penned in a journal: “to teach people to parent as well as we teach them to give birth.”

That spark began to smolder when I learned that 75% of our town’s budget belonged to the School Department. Nothing against our School Department, a similar number was everywhere I looked. At that point I began asking educators my question, “If you could start over, what would it look like?” and took note of the reactions. No one dismissed the question, and no one had a ready answer. After an appropriate pause I would run my idea of a new public education by them and again, no one shut me down. As with most concepts, the challenges appeared in everyone’s mind long before the solutions, so most conversations never progressed to tangible benefit. I knew I needed a different scenario. But not being known to the world of education theorists and visionaries, at best I could assemble two or three – not enough to yield the weight and momentum I know such change will need behind it to get the flywheel moving. The idea of a blog only recently dawned on me.

Invitations are being extended to those who have established their expertise in public education strategy. The structure of the site will evolve to address the needs of those who want to contribute. For now, let us begin with answers to the primary question: if you could start a new public education system from square one – with no preconceived ideas of what it used to look like, what it has to conform to, even what its metrics of success are – what would it look like?

Stephen Dill

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