Last weekend, the Los Angeles Times had an article of dubious worth on value added assessment, in which they pointed fingers and named names. I had something to say about it, as did many others.
But, from a post and thread on John Merrow's blog, it seems that many of the people that used to be known as the leaders are wildly out of touch. In particular, Grant Wiggins makes a stunning cameo, which could actually be a good lead in to a new program named "Misunderstanding By Design." Joe Bowers keeps a pretty good scorecard.
Against this rhetorical backdrop, Will Richardson sends us a nearly-elegiac prose postcard about the role of leadership in fomenting educational change. In it, he talks about how many people outside the echo chamber of online communities are not aware of the changes looming on the horizon - but in his piece, he also alludes to people having an alternative vision about what people should be learning:
(T)hey go back to their conversation. “It’s the schools that should be doin’ that,” one is saying, and all of a sudden, I’m tuned in, listening over my shoulder as I reach for a pack of Dentyne Ice from the candy shelf beneath the counter. “They’re just not teaching it as much as they should be.” I step away from the counter, buy a little time by pretending to look closely at the chocolate bars down below, wonder what the system is so deficient in, wondering, maybe…
“These kids just don’t know nothin’ about managing money,” he says, and I hear various sounds of assent from the others.
When I first read the Merrow post linked above, I was incredibly depressed - it was disheartening to see the extent of the disagreements between people who have been working for decades on improving education. But it slowly began to dawn on me: if this is what passes for vision, then we have a vacuum to fill. And while it would be nice to have a Secretary of Education who could do better than this, we need to play the hand we're dealt.
So, cue the music:
One thing we have going for us: virtually no one want the status quo (the only real exception here are, of course, companies that have a business model that depends on the status quo *cough cough textbook/test prep/testing companies cough cough*, but even they need to mouth the rhetoric of change, because the pace of change is a construct that will hold its value over time).
So, given that most of us want change, we need to listen to the changes people want. There are bound to be some good ideas in there, even among people with whom there appear to be broad disagreements. While "managing money" might not seem like a "21st century skill" people still need to know how to do it - and with minimal effort, I can think of a half-dozen project based lessons that could develop that skill.
More importantly, though, we need to act. How are you showing the value of the informal learning in which you engage? How does this make you a better educator? More importantly, how can this contribute to a better classroom, a better learning experience for students, and/or a better school? If we can't articulate and demonstrate these things - and, more importantly, if we don't make the time to enact and articulate these advantages - why should anyone take us at our word?