The start of a new schooling year spawns renewed interest in education. Mostly, this interest is fleeting and lead by mainstream media serving up sound bites, lunchbox recipes and superficial debates on the subject of “Back to School.” Our children deserve deeper discussion. The world they live in and are inheriting is changing rapidly and future generations deserve more opportunities, starting now, to develop new competencies and dispositions than the default skills – based on outmoded assumptions – that continue to define conventional schooling. With this in mind and heart, I offer the following suggestions for improving K-12 education:
1. Personalize all facets of student learning. Really. Allow this to be shaped by the latest insights from neurobiology, holistic learning, multiple intelligences, positive and cognitive psychology. Stop the tide of 21st century technocracy and 19th century bureaucracy that is currently stifling human-centred education reform.
2. Dissolve the walls between schools and the communities in which they are located (tapping into community resources, knowledge and wisdom).
3. Enable students/learners in each year to create at least one course reflecting their own personal learning interests and passions (helping to ensure that “Self-Responsibility” is experienced rather than a classroom lecture topic).
4. Provide students / learners with authentic learning experiences connected to “real world” activities, like doing “real” science and math, community social study, etc.
5. Validate all subjects of study as “core” subjects (and drop the harmful bias in favour of science, math, language arts and social sciences).
6. Overhaul testing to make the experience more meaningful, authentic, respected. In doing so, drop the pretense that standardized testing results reflect authentic competencies (in anything) which, for the most part they don’t, involve students/learners in designing tests, and engage real professionals and practitioners in helping to design them.
7. Empower young people with the same skills, strategies and dispositions that are recognized as effective and in current use among top business and coaching professionals.
8. Validate and honour the rights of learners to choose their learning paths, and provide support to them in doing so (think Khan Academy, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc.).
9. Eliminate the pretense that “schooling” is the most important locus and agency of “learning”. This was never true, and it’s certainly not true today. Tremendously important learning experiences – for some kids the most important learning experiences – happen outside the parameters of schooling (think hobbies, sports, camps, 4H, volunteering, gaming, etc.).
10. Empower and mandate those agencies currently dominating the control of education (i.e. departments of education, teaching unions, school boards, etc.) with mandates to introduce the innovations mentioned here, or face censure and penalty. (i.e. reward educational innovation and stop impeding it or paying it lip service).
?For information on my book: Learn Your Way! SelfDesigning the Life You Really Want, Starting Now and to order a copy, go here. ?