October 6th, 2012

What is the “Sound Foundation”?

From Abundance by Peter Diamandis:

…We’re training our children in skills they rarely need, while ignoring those they absolutely do. Teaching kids how to nourish their creativity and curiosity, while still providing a sound foundation in critical thinking, literacy and math, is the best way to prepare them for a future of increasingly rapid technological change (Kindle 471).

I’ve been having some interesting conversations lately with people who are basically like “ok, if we can learn almost anything on our own, then what do we really need to teach in school?” Not a new question, I know, but cropping up more and more it seems of late. 

I know there are some who are curriculum minimalists somewhere just to the right of Summerhill, and others who think the sound foundation of literacy and math is so encompassing that it can only be achieved through proscribed curricula and teaching to until a student is nearing adulthood. (Pearson loves the latter view, no doubt.)

My view is that we are teaching EVERY child way too much stuff, that EVERY child does not need nearly as much math or science or literature or history as we seem to think, and I believe that EVERY child loses a fair amount of creativity and curiosity in our zeal to deliver and test the all encompassing curriculum. And we do this because we think school is the only place to easily learn all that stuff, or because that’s what “college readiness” is. And in our subject-based world, everyone will fight to the death against eliminating any of it. 

But at what cost?

Last I looked, not even a third of adults in the US have a college degree. I’d be surprised if 10% of adults over 30 could pass the current state graduation tests that all of our kids have to take. That’s not because they’re stupid, but because they’ve long forgotten the parts of the curriculum that didn’t end up being relevant to their real lives. 

So I wonder, what, really, does EVERY child need to know? What defines a “sound foundation” that EVERY child can build upon down whatever chosen road they take for their learning? 

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Welcome! I'm Will Richardson, parent, educator, speaker, author, 12-year blogger at Weblogg-ed and now here. I'm trying to answer the question "What happens to schools and classrooms and learning in a 2.0 world?" Best selling new book: Why School?s...order now!!

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