Let me tell you a story…
In a school building, not unlike the ones we currently work in, there is a multi-age classroom of about 20 students. when the students arrive, the two to three teachers in the room gather the students in the Morning Meeting area of the room for a morning chat. The students greet each other as they enter the circle. The teacher facilitates a discussion regarding emotions. The teacher reviews the schedule for the morning, which would look something like this: Create/Revise daily plan worked on during the previous day, meet with one of the teachers to discuss the plan, and work on plan for the remainder of the day. Of course, lunch, snacks, and recess would be in there as well. The students might then share some family news, current events, songs, or writing with the group before the teacher reviews the norms for the day. Then, the students would begin working on their daily plan. There are no high-stakes tests, no hidden agenda or curriculum, no textbooks, and nothing holding the students back from being creative and tapping into their innate potential.
Doesn’t that sound awesome? As teachers, this model makes a ton of sense. Sure, it can be scary to give up control and allow the students to run the show. But, unless we want to build more factories for our students to work in as they are all currently being trained in the same manner regarding the same curriculum, then something needs to change. We should want to breed innovators and explorers. We need to foster a sense of curiosity within our students. A free-form, student-centered classroom is the way to accomplish this task. The students learn about what intrigues them at a pace that is both supportive and challenging. In World Class Learners, the author cites some schools in America that are currently doing this. The Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts operates along these same principles as well as the Albany Free School in New York. Unfortunately, these schools are few and far between because parents and government officials worry that this educational freedom will breed anarchy. So, it’s all about control. The world wants to create an educational dictatorship so that all students are learning exactly the same curriculum at exactly the same time in exactly the same way. And we expect students from this model to take over the world in 20 years? How, when they are all the same? The novel The Giver by Lois Lowry clearly explained what happens when things are the same. Do we really want that, because that is exactly where we are heading, globally. Change needs to happen.
Yong Zhao cites many examples, articles, and statiscs to support his thesis that the global education system is broken and in need of huge repairs. This data that he cites is not new, which begs the question, why is something not being done about this? Why are we moving more toward a national curriculum as we know it doesn’t work to foster creativity, which is what our schools are lacking? Why are we not moving towards a more innovative and creative educational platform that helped to create Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and countless other inventors, innovators, and creatrive thinkers? If jobs are limited, why are we not working at trying to foster a sense of entrepreneurship within our students? Why is nothing meaningful or relevant being done regarding ecuation reform? Does nobody see the cracks in the foundation of our educational system? China and other Asian countries admit how their systems are defunct and not best serving their students. They are applying changes to better support and help their students develop creativity, self-confidence, and collaboration so that the next big idea comes from Asia. Why is America pushing a national curriculum that caused the problems in Asian countries? It seems as though the people in power don’t seem to care. They don’t want to change in the way that will best serve our country. They want to do what every other country is doing. America used to be the leader in education and the way things were done globally. Now we are followers. We’ve seen where that has gotten other countries yet we refuse to deviate from our path of destruction. Why?
Change needs to happen. First, every educational or government leader needs to read World Class Leaners by Yong Zhao. Then, while those in charge of “generating new ideas for educational reform” are brainstorming changes, let’s pool our resources as educators and open a bunch of free-form, Montessori, and Waldorf schools around the country. If not now, when? The future of our world depends on it.