The Only Constant is Change

Reimagining Education.

mental_illness-depression-creativityI know it’s the holidays but I’ve been giving alot of focus on education and what that is going to look like ten years from now.
“To create the future, we must first imagine it.”
That’s what XQ believes. Have you heard of XQ? WHAT IS XQ?
“IQ: is How We Think
It measures your cognitive capabilities.
EQ: is How We Learn In The World
It measures the ability to connect, collaborate, and learn from others.
IQ + EQ + That Certain Something = XQ.
“XQ is the agile and flexible intelligence that prepares students for a more connected world, a rapidly changing future, and a lifetime of learning.The XQ Institute is in service of parents and pioneers, entrepreneurs and teachers, business leaders and administrators, youth and education experts—who are joining a movement to rethink America’s schools. Together, we can use our knowledge, rigor, and creativity to create a new model for school itself.”
These schools really sound futuristic and I’ve joined a team to create one. There just don’t seem to be any like this that I know of. Except for High Tech High. Has anyone heard of High Tech High? It’s in San Diego and has a similar model as the one discussed above. Student driven, project based, inquisitive and hands on. I’m taking a look at how HTH is structured and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Also some great books I’m looking at are Innovation Nation, The Rise of the Creative Class, Ken Robinson’s The Element and Creative Schools, Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Brain, Why Right Brianed people Will Rule the World, David Kelly’s Creative Confidence, Mindset by Carol Dweck and The Maker Movement Manifesto. And one more called the Reign of Error by Diane Ravich. Diane USED to be the top proponent for Charter Schools. She is now against them and against the privatization of education and this book details her reasons for that. It’s a great and important read as I try to see how education should be shaped to reflect the needs of the 21st century.

On another note. I believe we are in the midst of a renaissance . During the mechanical age it may have made sense to separate subjects and specialize within those subjects. The 21st century is “the conceptual age” and operates more successfully by mimicking the symbiotic system of nature. Everything connected and working together. No arts OR math OR lit OR history etc. But instead Arts & math & Lit &  science connected. We are in creation mode, so we need to know “what we need to know” to do that, (create) which is pretty much everything. Do we need to be specialists in everything? Not necessarily. But we need to be able to communicate with people and be familiar with their language and play within an agreed upon structure.

I am in the theatre, the creative arts. One of the misnomers about the arts is that they are wild and free and undisciplined. Nothing could be further from the truth. We play within created and agreed upon structures. It may be a different structure each time, but once the vision is set there is an agreed structure and we operate within that structure. And as a result there is room for a great amount of freedom of expression, exploration, and if necessary, rule breaking. But without a structure there is just chaotic imagination expressing and thrashing about. Steve jobs put it well by saying “Innovation is creativity that ships.” Real artists ship. Education needs to ship.

The United States will remain competitive by being the best innovators or we will join the third world countries competing for dwindling mechanical age jobs. That means permeating education with the concept that there is not one right answer. That is the shift. Common core is attempting to address this. But addressing it within a titanic system that operates like a factory that reflects the mechanical age of yesterday. And it is a change so there is massive resistance; not a good thing or a bad thing, just the first stage of change: Rejection. “No it’s always been done like this.” The standardized tests that rule all of this (Sats, Acts, Iowa, etc.) are supposed to be shifting to reflect the common core in 2016. We will see how that goes. But I suspect we will see scores decline because we are in the midst of a battle over whether we want to change or not. I am not sure this layer of change will do anything but polarize the players. When people are polarized they aren’t actually interested in solutions, they are interested in being right. This is the old paridym of either/or thinking. The new paridym introduces ‘and’. More on this later.

The rest of the world uses the PISA exam which reflects creative and innovative thinking . Go online and take a look. Here is the lastest rankings available: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-26249042 And here is the website where you can look at some sample questions and see how completely different the skills necessary to be successful are. http://www.cmec.ca/508/Programs-and-Initiatives/Assessment/Programme-for-International-Student-Assessment-(PISA)/PISA-2015/index.html Critical thinking skills rule.

The US scores relatively low compared with the money we spend. So we are willing to make changes to raise our scores. That, in my opinion, is part of the problem. We have our sites on the assessment (score or the result) instead of using the assessment/score to guide us to see the concept clearer. The child is labeled a number or a letter, instead of using the measurement to look for the information he or she needs to complete the knowledge. No, they become an ‘A’, an 85%, an ‘F’, and the branding can follow them year to year. All it really means is they missed info. There is a fix. Rather than using the info to say ‘wow they are missing 15% of what there is to know here’ and going back to review the rest we label the student and move on.

We lable them a grade, based on what WE decide is the information that important for them to know. Is it what they need to know for success in the 21st Century? Ummm, well, we don’t really have time for that we need to grade the assessments that were created during the mechanical age. This is the result oriented thinking we need to change.

And this is also where it gets tricky. Our university systems thrive on the results to gain acceptance. Who is going to let go of the need for an ‘A’ first? The parents who want their kids in the best university? The kids who are being threatened by the system, their, parents, their teacher through grades or the standardized tests? Or how about the universities that want to maintain their reputations of only accepting the highest scoring students?

And what exactly does an ‘A’ mean? An A in a CP or an A in an AP? Most AP classes aren’t much better than CP classes because the teachers need the kids to pass so they are teaching to the AP exam. Teaching what to think, not how to think. Very yesterday. Again, who is going to let go first?

This is a systemic problem. And in my opinion it is connected to the student loan system, which gives a free flow of money to all students that will NEVER be able to be excused away through bankruptcy LIKE EVERY OTHER KIND OF DEBT WE USE. Remedial classes are commonplace in community colleges and universities and who is paying for them? The students or us, tax payers. We have lowered the bar by dumbing down tests or teaching to the test (teaching kids to memorize the info to pass rather than understand the information to apply to other situations). Then colleges and universities fill every seat with money from student loans. It’s an education scam because education isn’t the goal…. Butts in the seats are the goal. This is a dangerous game because we actually need the students educated. Is it EVERY school? That’s a good question. I know it happened at the private schools where I taught. How about you? When was the last time you ever saw a student held back? It used to happen all the time when I was a kid. If you failed you got held back. Now you get a different test, extra time on a test, get to take the class again in summer school or somehow the kids just passes. Hmmmmm. Money for butts in the seats. The high school system is similar in that the schools get paid to have the student in class until 10:30. After that? Not so much. And 70% of the student body need to pass at 70% or higher or federal funding is cut. But, have no fear, you can write your own test, so just keep dumbing it down until you reach your 70%. Corruption has hurt this system as deeply as corruption has hurt the banking system with adjunct professors reaching as high as 75% of the professors redirecting funding to marketing, administration, and athletic spending in order to attract the clients to their school. In an environment like this how do you hold a student accountable? The emphasis is on the quick money that can be made instead of on the stakeholders who will benefit from the system ten or twenty years from now. The system needs to be changed.

The problem I foresee with a private school is that eventually we cater only to people with money. Having come from a private school, an enormous amount of time is spent on fundraising and marketing. And standards can be shifted for donors who are demanding. Private schools also cut back on diversification which is the life blood of innovation. And it doesn’t necessarily speak to creating a school model that can be shared with other schools. I guess this is where discussion about the importance of private vs public schools would be good. Are quality public schools necessary? Or is it ok to only educate the wealthy.
Whatever the answer it is clear that we need a systemic change. We need to create a new model and with the best of intentions we will be guessing on how to do it. Our workplaces, technologies, shopping habits, education platforms and jobs change every day. So our most valuable skills might be our ability to agree on a vision, our ability to recognize when we go off course, our adaptability, our willingness to adjust, and our willingness to accept mistakes as the gold that they are. Mistakes are so important and our present system makes “mistakes” the worst thing that can happen, through their worship of perfect scores and GPAs. – the remnants of teaching to the test . We are in the 3rd or 4th generation of this type of thinking, so most of us don’t recognize how powerfully that single aspect of “No Mistakes” education has effected us. It is endemic in how we think; in how we approach problems. “Get it right” is more important than “get it”. This can and must be changed.

I wrote my thesis on arts across the curriculum. It took me on a journey through education in general. I think each of us have been wandering with our frustrations and observations with very little time to imagine alternatives. All the while the world is becoming more connected, new ideas are being exchanged at an increasing pace and new problems are being created that need new solutions. It’s overwhelming and exciting. Alone more overwhelming, and together more exciting.

There’s my story. That’s where I am in my quest to finding a new way to do high school. Where are you?mental_illness-depression-creativity

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