I was reading an article in Edutopia magazine this morning. The Letter from the Editor states:
Edutopia magazine strives to clear out the mental cobwebs and help create new methods of teaching and learning. It is not enough for today’s students simply to memorize prepackaged information in textbooks in order to answer the multiple-choice tests at the back of their books. Now schools must produce powerful young thinkers capable of solving complex, real-world problems. Unfortunately, fundamental changes has yet to occur in most schools. Public discourse about public education rarely reaches for the stars. Instead, it is mired in a mentality of bureaucracy, politics, jargon, and frustration.
One of the articles contained an interview with George Lucas. One of his quotes, “Education as simply a way of storing facts isn’t significant. Instead, we need to teach students how to tell a story.” is so true. Now this visionary filmmaker was approaching education arguing that students must learn a new language of image and sound in order to succeed. He argues that we must teach communication comprehensively, in all its forms. His concluding statements really stood out for me.
“The problem is that people don’t get the bigger picture. And the bigger picture is that a country survives on its educational system. Go beyond that: The human race survives on its educational system. That means that a country with the best educational system becomes the prominent county or society. The society that has a great educational system becomes the prominent society because that’s the way the human race survives.
People seem to forget this fact, and often these are the same people who are running the society. They would rather spend money on the military than on the educational system, unaware that the military system will bring them zippo. It’s not a great idea to want to take over the world if you don’t know what to do with it and how to run it. Nothing is accomplished through conquest. Everything is accomplished through education.”
You have to wonder if our society will ever REALLY focus on education. Why do so many in the educational world fear change? It’s way past time for us to move forward. Will referred to Barbara Ganley’s post (another excellent one, by the way) where she argues that “the world has changed; the classroom has not.”
We’ve got stories to be told in education. We’ve got to get more voices in this mix. George Lucas asked this question in his article. What are the kids learning, and why are they learning it? We’ve got to get our kids in on these conversations, especially at the high school level and above. I hope more educators will look for ways to use weblogs to get student voices heard.
Another good article in the magazine is entitled “Power to the People” and the principal from Fairview Elementary tells about a First Amendment School in action. There are now 16 First Amendment Schools located throughout the country and they share the following aims:
- Create schools that serve as laboratories of democratic freedom
- Develop in all members of the school community a commitment to inalienable rights and civic responsibility
- Engage all stakeholders in a shared commitment to work together for the common good of the school community
- Foster the knowledge, skills, and virtues necessary for thoughtful and effective participation in the democratic life of the school community and beyond
This principal shared how his fourth graders put these lessons to practical use when they petitioned school administrators to improve their lunch choices. They used surveys, drafted a petition, got signatures, and wrote persuasively. They were successful in making change. These kids and the principal need to be blogging!