Tim Stahmer’s post “There’s No Normal to Return To” has me thinking this morning. He writes:
At the same time we in education are also doubling down on the â€œback to basicsâ€ and on teaching kids how to follow someone elseâ€™s instructions. Our leaders, both political and business, want us to think that if we just combine greater effort with more standardization that we can recreate the glorious old days where every kid was above average and US test scores topped every other country.
The former, of course, is statistically impossible (only inÂ Lake Wobegon) and the later aÂ myth, but we spend large chunks of money, instructional time, and public discourse trying to make it happen.
So when do we acknowledge that our current education system, built to support that industrial society, also needs to change?
Good question. And even more, past acknowledging the need, when do we make it happen?
Most of the edusocialmediaverse sees a compelling need to change…but to what? What is the “new normal” in 20, 30 or 40 years?
I have little doubt any longer that it will be a “roll your own” type of education, one in which traditional institutions and systems play a vastly decreased role in the process. That the emphasis will be on learning and what you can do with it, not on degrees or diplomas or even test scores. As I Tweeted out yesterday, my new favorite quote comes from Cathy Davidson:
“‘Learning’ is the free and open source version of ‘education.'”
I do believe that the emphasis will turn back to the learning process, not the knowing process. And while I don’t think schools go away in the interaction, the “new normal” will be a focus on personalization not standardization, where we focus more on developing learners, not knowers, and where students will create works of beauty that change the world for the better. At some point, we’ll value that more than the SAT.
That’s my hope at least. As Gary Stager points out, it’s a pretty dismal moment:
The problem with the rehab or resurrection myth was that I never anticipated the chance that American public policy regarding public education was that there IS NO BOTTOM to rise up from. It now appears that schooling and the way in which some Americans treat other peopleâ€™s children has no bottom. Things can and will get worse, perhaps indefinitely.
And that is the scary part, that for most kids, there is no bottom. Over the next decade, we’ll see lots of kids opting out of schools as we know them, many because they feel disenfranchised or disinterested and would rather just complete the same old curriculum online, but some because there will be a growing number of “education providers” who will offer a much more personalized, passion-alized learning experience for those who can afford it. And I’m not talking here about the Amazonification of education where we’re delivered content based on our interests (though that’s coming too.) I’m talking about places both online and off where highly motivated kids will gather to learn under the aegis of any number of different school-type entities that look little like the current brick and mortar spaces most of us send our kids. What concerns me is what happens to those that aren’t well off enough or highly motivated enough to create their own new, better paths to learning.
Tim’s post references a Seth Godin post where he writes:
It takes a long time for a generation to come around to significant revolutionary change. The newspaper business, the steel business, law firms, the car business, the record business, even computers… one by one, our industries are being turned upside down, and so quickly that it requires us to change faster than we’d like.
It’s unpleasant, it’s not fair, but it’s all we’ve got. The sooner we realize that the world has changed, the sooner we can accept it and make something of what we’ve got. Whining isn’t a scalable solution.
In other words, this is going to take a while, and it’s not going to be without pain. What does eventually rise from the ashes will be dependent on each of us seeing the world differently for ourselves, our willingness to lead and participate in the change, and at the end, fighting hard for what we believe is best for our kids.
Mary Ann Reilly says
I think the concern you raise about students who may not be able or willing to advocate for themselves is important. It connects in many ways with a main concern of mine: How do public schools relate to democracy and what do we imagine that relationship might be like in the future? Are we clear
I worry a bit about “personalization” as I am uncertain how personalization works in concert with larger democratic principles. Will personalization become the United States of Me (and those I like) or will it also include some answerability to country and other?
Provocative post. Thanks.
Mark Ahlness says
Will, read this from Charlie Mas:
Justin M 2014 says
I read â€œThe â€œNewâ€ Normalâ€ by Will Richardson and I agree with what he is saying about how education systems in the United States needs to to change its education system to a system personalized for the student. Right now in school our education system is standardized. Political figures feel that if we just teach the student how to beat the test we will learn but I know that it will never work. Richardson says that we need to personalize education and I agree if we meet th needs of every child then our country would do much better in education, because it is not also the grade that matters. In the article Richardson talks about how our education system has nothing to build itself up from and it does not, because we are still teaching standardized like in the good old days. But how will we reform our education to fit every students needs it is a big task that has to be done?
In your â€œThe â€œNewâ€ Normalâ€ I completely agree because no matter how much money we spend or try to get back to the good old days we wonâ€™t get back there. First, our education is flawed because students lack work ethic. In our school, we have so many opportunities that we donâ€™t take advantage of such as being able to redo assignments. As you saidâ€ I do believe that the emphasis will turn back to the learning process, not the knowing processâ€. However, knowing the material is different from learning it. If we know the material we can use it and apply it to everyday life; with just learning the material, we will just use it for that week or day and then drop it, never picking it up again. This would be creating another flaw in our education system. Next, â€œIt takes a long time for a generation to come around to significant revolutionary change. The newspaper business, the steel business, law firms, the car business, the record business, even computersâ€¦ one by one, our industries are being turned upside down, and so quickly that it requires us to change faster than weâ€™d like.â€ Society canâ€™t change quickly; this is going to take lots of time and dedication and still we may not get to where we want. The culture of the United States from the good old days to now day has changed very drastically. Teenagers today donâ€™t always do the right thing like returning someoneâ€™s lost stuff. We would have to undo 20-30 years of growth that have gotten us to where we are. I still think change is possible it would just be really hard. In conclusion education has changed a lot the emphasis needs to stay at knowing rather than shifting to learning.
Dear Mr. Richardson,
In your post â€œThe â€˜Newâ€™ Normalâ€ I agree with your predictions for the future of education. I feel that the way schools are now, they are not progressing enough to keep up with the needs of the students. The form of education we have in place needs to be more flexible in meeting studentâ€™s learning needs and helping them develop as well as a new system could. As a current student I realize how the world is changing around the education system and very little is being done to catch up. The way the people in charge of education need to think is more progressively and then maybe developments can be made.
Jordan A. says
Dear Mr. Richardson,
In your post â€œThe â€˜Newâ€™ Normalâ€ your predictions of what the future looks like are totally different then mine. I personally believe that the schooling systems won’t change in that matter, but instead they will become harder. If you look in the last twenty years, what is expected from youth has become more and more. In fact, the principal at my high school pointed out that from the aspect of job qualifications have become tougher. He told me “Today, a four year bachelor’s degree qualifies for the same jobs as a GED did twenty years ago.” Kids today are being taught things that are not as useful as they used to be. However, your predictions are just as (If not more) likely to come true than mine.