Those of you who have read this space for a while know that Lawrence Lessig is one of my heroes. I know…it’s somewhat of a geeky choice. But he’s without question been one of my greatest teachers in the last six years. I’ve seen him speak on about half a dozen occasions, and each time I am just inspired by his passion and dedication to challenging the traditional thinking about intellectual property and copyright. In many ways, I’ve tried to emulate him in my own presentations, albeit badly.
The news is that Lessig is moving on to different challenges, leaving the focus of the last 10 years to take on political corruption for the next 10. In his recent blog post about the subject, he talks about how he has come to believe that while we will eventually come to our senses about IP and copyright issues, real lasting change is incumbent on changing the system that makes the laws first. “Our government can’t understand basic facts when strong interests have an interest in its misunderstanding,” he writes, noting that this is at the heart of the corruption of the process. And later, “I’m convinced we will not solve the IP related issues until these “corruption” related issues are resolved.”
As I read the post, I heard all sorts of echoes to the school reform conversation we’ve been having in this network, much of which I’ve articulated here already from time to time. It’s no secret that I have not been optimistic of late that systemic changes can be made to this thing we call public school education through grassroots understanding of why change needs to occur, a position that in itself has not been made exceptionally clear to date. And that while I still really believe that helping to start conversations around these ideas and these changes can have a positive effect (in terms of in some way helping to generate some thinking and discussion around where we need to go,) I’ve been feeling myself moving away from the school reform conversation of late. I’m not so much interested in figuring out what School 2.0 means or is right now as I am just looking at my own kids and asking what are the skills and literacies that they are going to need when they their life’s work and what’s the best way to help them acquire them. I know this: it’s not their school in it’s current state (again, nothing new if you’ve been reading for a while.)
And so, as I write this (and post it) while barreling down I-95 somewhere in North Carolina, about three hours behind schedule, I’m heading to NECC with some real questions on my brain. My hope is to do a lot of listening and thinking, and less talking. I’ve gotta figure some stuff out…
Harold Jarche says
That’s the $64K question, Will. How can we make some real change? Good luck in your quest. Larry is my hero too 🙂
In addition to your concerns about systemic change, I remember that a while back, you were wondering where the exemplars of Read/Write teaching are.
It’s probably no surprise that I think Open Source Curriculum is a promising route toward exemplars and then systemic change. With the progress that Curriki is making developing the necessary curriculum-building tools, we’re nearing an inflection point. I’m moving thousands of resources there and shutting down the other sites.
If speeches and one-shot workshops aren’t yielding enough cumulative progress, why not use your pedestal to ask readers and listeners to come together and create an exemplary blogging-in-the-classroom unit…then a course for Read/Write English–done right, with samples of student work and video of teachers implementing…then a whole curriculum. Pretty soon, you’d have a real community of practice, departments adopting the curriculum, and charter and pilot schools springing up.
You’re uniquely positioned to make this happen, Will. People would contribute if they knew you’d be drawing attention to their work. I know Curriki is going to be at NECC, or I could put you in touch.
Christopher D. Sessums says
I’m with you bro! See you soon.
Dave Sherman says
I agree with Rob, Will. I am fortunate to work in a school and a district that has embraced the Read/Write web. We have numerous teachers who are ready to take the next step. I would love to see some type of classroom unit involving blogging and Wikis that we could use to teach our current curriculum. I would love to be a part of the creation of such a unit, as well!
I certainly have noticed a change in your writing the last few months. I am sorry to read about your growing pessimism regarding public education. I did not pick that up during the two times I listened to you speak in person (last July and December). There are teachers out there who are ready to move forward, and we principals need assistance in guiding and supporting them. That is why I look to people like you and some others for help.
It’s too early in the game to give up!
Will Richardson says
Wait, wait, wait! I’m not giving up. Not becoming a lobbyist. Not quitting the conversation.
I’m just trying to see the entry point to the conversation that would do the most good. I don’t disagree, Rob or Dave, that creating curriculum around these ideas would be a good thing to do to assist those that are trying to head down this path. But you guys that read this blog and enter these conversations and think about changing your curriculum are way far ahead of your counterparts across the country. My question is what is it that’s going to loosen the floodgates, and I think it’s really attacking some of the larger “yeah buts.” My personal search right now is trying to figure out the best way to do that.
Terry Elliott says
I think the key is to act as if…to act as if we knew a better way, to act as if we can figure out the lay of the river by plumbing it and yelling “mark twain”, and to not act as if we knew what the next bend in the river brings. We need to be confident, use the best tools available, and be open to this new world.
Lessig realizes that copyright issues are subsumed under the larger one of corruption. In our context then, what are the larger issues that subsumes school reform? Power structures, notions of human nature, and personal liberty are just a few of them. School corruption is about all of these especially the institutional imperative for survival at all costs.
Myles Horton put it best, “The job is to organize a school just well enough to get teachers and students together and see that it gets no better organized.” These ‘yeasty’ places will multiply themselves and fundamentally change society.
We are what we value and right now we valorize expert knowledge. It is fine to do so, but it is important that expertise be a part of the mix and not the cream that holds the froth down. I foresee personal learning networks as the next great ocean to explore. I certainly am exploring them constantly as are many of you and consider it my main function to enable others to do so as well. We are the new compass-makers looking for another magnetic north. May we be true.
Tom Hoffman says
This post is really a work of art, now that I read it more closely. You’ve managed to say “I’ve decided this ‘School 2.0’ crap is a waste of my time, and I’m sick of hearing about it” without saying that at all, and making it seem kind of uplifting and visionary. Amazing.
Will Richardson says
You know Tom, most of the time, I take your comments seriously and they make me stop and think. But every now and then I’m reminded of what it is about the way you do this that really turns me off. Never said it was crap. Never said it was a waste of time. Never said I was sick of hearing of it. And you’ve just done so much to help me figure it all out. Really compelling commentary. Thanks so much.
Tom Hoffman says
Well, no, you didn’t say it was crap. That’s the point. But you did say that “helping to start conversations around these ideas and these changes can have a positive effect (in terms of in some way helping to generate some thinking and discussion around where we need to go,)” which is really breathtakingly faint praise holding out an inderect hope of eventually getting to something relevant, if you parse it closely, and beyond that, you aren’t really interested. I would just say it was crap. That’s the difference between our styles.