Thursday, October 27, 2011

In times of drastic change - why can't we change?

We're in a dynamic, global economy where knowledge becomes obsolete very quickly.  This transition in our economy, with some interesting similarities to what happened between 1900-1920 (see link below), is completely changing the way we live, work, and learn.  Companies are becoming much more productive using technology and don't need as many workers.  Many people are finding they can work from home and/or telecommute, and even more are struggling to figure out just what to do.  Google, et. al. allows us to find rote facts in a matter of seconds,and  we can get online and watch a youtube video on everything from programming our DVR, to changing our oil, to making a French Omelet. 

Yet, somehow, the most important institutions find it impossible to recognize this new world and continue to act like it's 1938.  Our educational institutions are convinced that their job is to create a docile labor force that can sit quietly, do a repetitive task with some consistency, and memorize rote facts.  Last night I talked to a long time educator, and he said what every other public school teacher will tell you when no one is listening, "It's pitiful, we just teach to the test, if a kid has a question or a thought we don't have time to explore it, we have to get 30 kids ready to fill in the next bubbles on the test."  Yet, for the last 20 years every President has called for more testing, essentially doubling down on a failed model, doubling down on a system that is ruining the future of generations of children and our country.  So called 'reformers' are throwing out models for transformation that do nothing more than test prep more effectively (actually most of the models simply weed out most of the poor test takers and claim success).    I'm want to say their just being stupid, but when you consider most of the 'reformers' didn't go to these test factories and went to private schools, I actually believe they're being systematic in creating a world with clear have's and have not's.  It's also fascinating to look at where the leaders of today's most dynamic companies went to school, and as this NYT's piece from Sunday - Will Dropouts Save America - pointed out, how many of them dropped out of college.

There are other models out there that clearly help students develop skill sets much more closely aligned with what our world needs (people that love to learn and know how) -  Sudbury, Progressive, Waldorf, etc.  but, nobody is paying attention.  Implementing these different models, or creating public schools with similar characteristics, will require a radical shift of the populous at every level, from every political stripe, and they must put pressure on elected officials.   Perhaps, Occupy Wall Street can be the beginning of this movement?

"In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists."
Eric Hoffer


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