Sunday, March 23, 2008

Change School


I guess it is fitting that the leader of the Change Congress movement is also the founder of Creative Commons. I sure hope that Lawrence Lessig, licensed the material on the site as a share-alike attribution license, because I about to violate his copyright if he didn't. I spent some time watching the videos on the Internet with Lawrence Lessig and Barack Obama this weekend and came away thinking that the same way they look at the presidency and congress, I look at education and school. This was part of the debate I engaged in on Will Richardson's blog in December last year and he offered support if I were to ever run for political office. I feel strongly about this and I know there are plenty of others in the EduBlogosphere who feel the same way. Will quoted Clay Burrell and his thoughts about leaving schools if he really wanted to make a difference in the lives of his students. Well, I am quoting Barack Obama, when I say that teachers must have a "belief that change is possible."

We are preparing students for a world we cannot accurately define. (attributing this to David Warlick - since that is where I think I heard this first.) Karl Fisch, in his excellent "Did You Know..." video, states that students in our classes now will have 14 jobs... by the time they are 38 years old. We have 19th Century classrooms for 21st Century students and current laws encourage teachers to engage in the status quo because there is no motivation to improve or be innovative. There are a few teachers, who have taken it upon themselves to move forward, but their only reward is longer hours and the personal knowledge that they are truly "educational professionals." When speaking about congress, Lawrence Lessig states, "Members of Congress are personally honest, but institutionally corrupt." I could easily make this same point about the teaching profession. I know many teachers who are some of the most personally honest people I know, yet they are institutionally corrupt because they fall into the trap of "teaching one year thirty times."

Smaller Learning Communities and Professional Learning Communities show some promise, since they actively engage both teachers and students to take responsibility for learning and refining their activities as both students and teachers. The current state of education makes their wide spread implementation improbable since many of the core strategies of both require schools and school districts to lower class size and hold advisories in order to allow a group of teachers to have extended contact with the same group of students. Lowering class size and advisory periods costs significantly more than the traditional 35 students, seated in five rows across, seven seats deep. We have become extremely effective in moving the human herd from information grazing spot to the next spot, but is this the best way to educate them?

I think most agree this is not the best for our students or best for our society, but where does the tipping point come to change the system to something better? I have some ideas myself... more to follow.

1 comment:

Clay Burell said...

Noble sentiments, and there's certainly value in encouraging teachers not to lose hope, but a) belief doesn't make a thing true, and b) there's value in those seeking solutions on multiple pathways, inside and outside of school, to do the job of educating. David Eggers' recent TED talk is an example of people who "teach without being teachers."

I can't help but insist, though, that schools are no more natural, nor more useful, than churches and other institutions that have outlived their times. There are other ways to do things besides those inherited from the past.