personal development Aug 24, 2020
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Our schools are not serving us.

This is not the fault of students, parents, teachers, or administrators.

The predicament we're in with our current approach to educating is rooted in its history. The problems are structural and systemic.

Our current academic institutions were built for the industrial age and the consumer economy. The industrial system relied on compliant workers willing to do repetitive and tedious tasks in exchange for money. They were then encouraged to buy products and services sold through mass media disguised as entertainment.

What did this system require? Obedience. Unquestioned conformity to a status quo that outrageously rewarded very few at the expense of almost everyone else.

In my short career as a school teacher, I taught in both some of the most elite private schools in the United States and some of its most under-resourced inner-city schools. At either extreme, what was packaged as education was actually a compulsory system whose sole purpose is to teach compliance.

I'm not writing to convince you of this. Seth Godin has already written and spoken about this more cogently and persuasively than I ever could.

am writing to offer a way forward that any student, parent, teacher, or administrator can weave into the approach they already practice.

The Situation

Even before the entire world went sideways, it was glaringly obvious and painfully clear that how we school and what we teach is outdated. Education has not kept up with the times or technology.

Why do we insist that students memorize information that can be accessed in an instant on the internet? Why do we train them for tasks that are now done better by robots and AI?

Humanity faces extraordinary, existential challenges. Solving these wicked problems requires critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and character. Yet we have surgically removed training in all of these human skills from our school systems.

The "why" behind all this is moot. It's time to start figuring out a better way forward.

The Solution

The COVID19 pandemic has created global disruption to the status quo. While we slog through the uncertainty and adversity, we must acknowledge the suffering and misfortune and look for the silver linings and opportunities.

Many young people are finding themselves schooling remotely part-time or full-time. Some have taken a break from institutional education to pursue other avenues of advancement.

While the academic establishment figures out how to reimagine traditional schooling, we each have an extraordinary opportunity to pursue alternatives. Young people and those who support them can define and develop programs that augment or even supplant the old system with one that's better.

What does better education look like? Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Reimagining what teaching and learning are.
  • Learning by doing.
  • Advancing critical thinking.
  • Cultivating creativity.
  • Collaborative project-based ventures.
  • Promoting personal development and understanding.
  • Peer-to-peer initiative and engagement.
  • Developing and practicing human skills.
  • Work on solving challenging, real-life problems.

Whether you're a student or supporting one, taking initiative and exploring interests that enhance a young person's educational experience has never been easier or more important. All the information you can possibly seek is at your fingertips. Connecting with anyone anytime can be organized in an instant.

A better way to learn isn't a question of access, it's a question of agency. All you need to do is commit and act.

Ready to embrace and engage your agency to craft your own experience in learning by doing? What's the first smallest step you can take into that possibility? Why not take it now?

Scott Perry, Chief Difference-Maker at Creative on Purpose

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