I’ve always been a fan of Seth Godin who is one of those people who pushes my thinking on a regular basis and who can articulate the issues in an unusually clear way. And, I love his passion for what he believes. That in and of itself makes him great reading/listening.
In this video linked by Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen, Godin neatly sums up in about 4 1/2 minutes a message I think every parent should hear (building on the post here a couple of days ago.) Take a listen:
My kids turn 13 and 11 next month. Homeschooling is not an option for us, for a variety of reasons. (I know, I know…we could make it happen if we REALLY wanted to.) One of my kids is in public school, the other goes to an independent school. While I love their teachers, I don’t love either system. I don’t love the “we’re going to do what you need to do to get yourself to college” path they’re both on (whether it’s articulated that way or not). I don’t love what’s lost in that equation.
What really resonates is when he says that we’re not going to test ourselves out of this problematic moment. “We need to essay ourselves out of it, sketch ourselves out of it, or we need to debate our way out of it” instead. Amen. Amen. Amen.
Thinking about all of this makes me more convinced that unless my kids develop serious passions for doing whatever good work they want to do, sending them off to college as Grade 13 is just a horrible idea, and that I will continue to advocate that their schools become less focused on the one-size fits all education and allow them instead to see their school time as an exploration of what the world can hold for them. To nurture their willingness and ability to seek their own topics, question everything, and participate with others from anywhere in meaningful ways that change the world.
We’ll try to do more of that at home as well, obviously. But I really want my kids to have meaningful choices about their “education” when they get to the point where they can make those decisions. What I wrote here four years ago now still holds…
Kathleen M. Burgess says
Schools need to change and change needs to come within both public and private systems. We are no longer a system within our own little section of the globe. Our systems are now open to the global environment. Students need to be shown how to communicate, interact, and think in a wider and broader atmosphere. Education both public and private must break out of the neat little rows of children and begin offering more than just book learning. Administrators need to trust teachers who have put the students in charge of their learning. As a nation when we realize, whether it be public or private, we are working for the same outcome. We must furnish our schools both public and private with the best people, equipment, and tools giving children the ability to go beyond the 21st Century. Supplying students with tools of the 21st Century has opened the world and now there are no walls in education. Our neat little rows that at one time confined students to the flat world of an open book have now been transformed into another dimension. The process of opening the world to our little nation began when television was first introduced into homes. Education is not public or private it is both and when we as a nation begin to see this only then will our systems change. Making a statement like this may upset some but we need to realize that until we start working together for the needed funding our systems will not survive. We need to offer students very diverse choices in their learning experience our brains all learn in different ways. Schools must engage students in their learning; teach understanding and collaboration of our own culture and all cultures, test not only academics but look at other things the student does best, use 21st Century tools continually for student learning, let teachers open the walls of their classrooms on a daily basis. Then and only then will we have learners who are engaged, interested, and prepared for the 21st Century and beyond.
doris h says
Are you asking for a more aggressive approach to teaching in the 21st century? Perhaps this would work and how is this instituted?
I agree with some of your statements. What strategies do we need to use at this point in the educational process with technology a number one teaching tool?
I have this same argument/discussion with people in our district and local education critics all the time. They usually come back with something like “of course the kids should have options, but they still need to be prepared for college in case they choose that path”.
They don’t/won’t understand that the way our school system is organized (and I suspect it’s not different from most others), preparing students for college is an all or nothing deal. We’ve dismantled almost all vocational programs and those that remain still require a very small variation on the same college-prep curriculum prescribed for everyone else.
The bottom line is that we talk about giving kids choices/options in their educational program in the same way we discuss “21st century skills”. Both phrases make for great political speeches but few if any of the concepts implicit in them are actually being implemented.
Will, at least your kids have a big advantage in that their parents understand and can teach them about the options they have and can help them tailor a personal learning program to fit their needs.
John Sowash says
What a great interview! I had not heard it before. Thanks for sharing. I too have always been impressed by Godin’s insights. The classroom activities that lead to the greatest learning are the most difficult ones to assign and grade because they are so personal and individualized which is why (IMO) a lot of teachers shy away from them. It’s much easier to grade multiple choice tests.
doris h says
If the greatest learning are the most difficult ones to assign and grade why don’t we come up with a rubric that speaks to grading being more flexible.
Terry Smith says
Agree, agree, agree. So I just resigned my public school job where in 15 persistent years I feel I fought the test mentality over and over, inserting projects and choices and technology and global communication/networking, and so forth. I made very little change locally, even though my classes had incredible outside the wall experiences with Internet projects. So, as a larger effort, I’m moving my strategy of change to teacher education; perhaps if I (we) can instill a different kind of outlook in our new teachers and equip them to get out there and use the tools of their present society such as social networks, blogs/wikis/video conferencing, classroom-to-classroom global projects, 3D curricula like Quest Atlantis, and more science instruction/experimenting,change may go a little faster. Brown, Collins, & Duguid put it so well in their paper Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning: “The system of learning and using (and, of course, testing) thereafter remains hermetically sealed within the self-confirming culture of the school. Consequently, contrary to the aim of schooling, success within this culture often has little bearing on performance elsewhere.”
A bit more than 15 years ago we began the arduous task of tracking our graduates. We knew that about 66% of then graduated intending to attend a 2 or 4 year college or a training or technical school. We knew that some of that group were enlisting in the military and would either defer that goal or pursue it while in the military. Of the remaining third, some were headed into the military, some had no plans, others were headed immediately into the workplace. However we didn’t have much of a clue about what happened once they graduated.
Anyone who has tried to do this knows that arduous is an understatement – it took us five years before we felt we were collecting meaningful data and it was eye opening. Given the number of students who left a 4 year college without a degree it would have been easy to conclude we weren’t preparing them for college. However, those who started at a 2 year or technical school were much less likely to drop out. Several of us argued those two statistics (along with other data) suggested that the problem wasn’t that the students weren’t prepared but that they had chosen (or had been pointed in) the wrong direction. In 2001 we began to think more along the lines of School to Work.
Notice I said we began to think – we didn’t adopt the School to Work program and the change in attitude didn’t occur over night. The fact is, ten years later we are still fighting against the idea that everyone needs to attend college.
The problem, or as our superintendent like to say, the challenge, is caused by a number of factors. First, there is an attitude in our community, which I think is mirrored nationwide, that office work is good and manual labor is bad. The banker is somehow better than the auto mechanic, if you will. (This, of course, totally ignores the fact that my plumber (a former student) is making nearly twice what I make and has better benefits.) Second, we teachers are college educated and many of us probably reinforce this attitude in our classrooms. Further I’ve discovered that many of my colleagues, at all grade levels, are woefully ignorant about job opportunities in general. Third, proficiency testing has tended to push anything but core curriculum to the side so career education has been slashed. Fourth, at least in my area, vocational education is considered the dumping ground of problem students and not the place for good students. But we persevere.
A separator between lower class and middle/upper class is what happens outside of the classroom. While (theoretically) all students at public schools have about the same opportunities during school time, those whose parents have more money have opportunities to explore creative avenues before/after school or during the summer breaks.
I was surprised to hear Godin talking about pushing his children’s school by being active in that school. If more parents who felt like he did were actively involved changes might start to take place. Too often we hear people complain about schools but do nothing to change them. It seems that this may be a viable way to get some changes made.
Bill Farren says
“No one can choose a world without change. We choose only whether we drive change or react to it.”
Bill Gates addressing the AFT recently.
Harlan howe says
I feel pulled in two directions as an independent school teacher. One the one hand, I feel like we should be the leaders in any teaching revolution. If we don’t have the freedom and resources to think outside the box, who does?
But on the other hand, what does our clientele demand? If that is to get their kids into college, and teaching in the 19th century style is working for our kids (an assumption that admittedly bears examination), who am I to rock that boat? I think there is some fear in our faculty that it will break what doesn’t need fixing….
It is interesting, though, that when we do try to break out of that mold, to do projects or to move away from testing, the first people to complain are often the students!
I guess I would have to argue that not all public schools are this way. I think teachers are starting to change. I am fortunate enough to work in a small school with a collaborative staff and an open-minded administration.
But the pressures put on teachers to teach to every standard and to “the test” is ridiculous and has little bearing on students’ life after school.
And also, Mr. Godin needs to consider the conditions that some schools are functioning in, or “dysfunctioning” in. The buildings are dilapidated; the classrooms are packed; there’s no money for technology. Yet, we continue to spend millions of dollars on stadiums and coliseums. Does anyone see the disconnect here?
So I will continue to do my little bit, most of which, I hope, is exactly what my students need for their lives outside of school. And not all of which has to do with the state standards I’m supposed to be teaching but which leans towards teaching them common sense, good decision making, and ethics as students, citizens, and friends.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein
When I decided several years ago to change career paths and pursue my 5-12 social studies licensure, the act of teaching in a public school seemed more like a noble calling of ideological expression than a daily balancing act between my personal convictions and professional responsibilities. Similar to a previous post, I feel torn between the idea that I should rework and reinvent the educational experience my students are exposed to, and their desire (and their parents’ desire) to be “adequately” prepared for college. I teach in a school that touts its 95%+ graduation rate and 1000+ AP students and massive number of alumni that continue on to four-year colleges. While I respect and admire the accomplishments of each student and the overall performance of the district that employs me, I do sometimes feel as though I am catering to the “teach to the test” mentality of education. Am I limiting my students’ ability to explore by testing on an ancient culture that they may never remember? Or am I providing perspective and foundational knowledge that will help them succeed later in life?
Teaching a course like World History lends itself to such philosophical debates (do students really need to know who the third emperor of such and such dynasty in place X in the year Y was?).
My inner-debate rages more passionately when I consider my three young children, the oldest of which is set to begin preschool this fall. What experience do I want them to have? Will I feel as though I have let them down if they do not achieve top marks? Is public school the right option for them? Since my wife and I are both public school teachers, we have never really considered anything other than our local school district. But can I just assume that we got lucky in terms of where we live? And when we get to the college question, will I be able to support my children’s choices as both a parent and educator?
I firmly believe that students should have options available to them that allow for their greatest potential growth. I also believe that no one system or philosophy or political campaign can make the options, opportunities, or resources available to students meaningful. That, I believe, still lies within the human connection of the people involved–parents, teachers, and, most importantly, students themselves.
While I agree with many of the positions Seth Godin takes in the second half of this interview, and I’ve often wondered if there was a “conspiracy” like the one he describes (between business and government), I’d like to see evidence other than the observation that the system that evolved is compatible with such a conspiracy theory. As Walter Kirn writes about management in Up in the Air, “it’s the stimulating assertion, not the tested hypothesis, that grabs folks.” Okay, I’m grabbed, but skeptical as well. Diane Ravitch, in her new book, calls this conspiracy claim bunk. Who’s right? Where’s the documentation?
Lois Girbino says
As an art teacher, I could not agree more about the need for more active teaching of creativity via problem-based learning in all content areas. Yet, art teachers are dropping like flies all over the country, and that sets a bad precedent for other educators even thinking about getting more creative. Another issue: it takes talent and energy to teach in a PBS style, and also genuine desire to continually explore all the tech opportunities available. Standards and testing take up a lot of time, leaving teachers little energy for going “outside the box”; without a mandate, most won’t. As more e-learning and credit flexibility options open up, I think educators and administrators might finally see the value in creating a learner-centric classroom.
paul bogush says
Homeschooling might not be an option…
but unschooling is 😉
-ve why not be +ve