I ran across this quotation in Daniel Grego’s article “Building a New Vision of Public Education”:

“Education” is the process by which people become responsibly mature members of their communities. Or put another way, “education” is the process by which a community points the learning of its members towards its conception of “the good.” It is not some thing an individual “gets,” but an activity in which a community engages in order to preserve and improve itself by developing the knowledge, skills, abilities, and character of its members. In a democratic society, education is “the work of the people.” (Hildreth, p.40.)

The source for this quotation is Robert Hildreth’s 1998 book “Building Worlds, Transforming Lives, Making History: A Guide to Public Achievement.” Grego’s article is part of the website of the Wisconsin-based “Technical Assistance and Leadership Center” that is part of the small schools movement currently supported by the Gates foundation and others.

I certainly agree that education is a process, and too often we mistake the word “education” for what happens at school. The idea that learning can and does take place inside and outside of schools is a key belief of the OLPC project, and was specifically mentioned by project director Nicholas Negroponte in his speech at the TED Talks in 2006.

I am reluctant to fully endorse the ideas of Grego and others in the small schools movement, however, because some are really not thinking outside the box in terms of school redesign. Plenty of people (including very wealthy ones) continue to cry out for more “rigor” in schools in the form of departmentalization. I don’t think that is the right path for School 2.0. I am also not convinced that opening up the coffers of public education for voucher programs is the solution, either. Barbara Miner is one person who has written extensively about this in Wisconsin, where the “Technical Assistance and Leadership Center” is physically based.

While I have reservations about calls for “more rigor” in schools and voucher programs, I definitely support the charter school movement and the idea that there is NOT a “one size fits all” model for education in the 21st century. I took some time last night on the airplane to watch and listen to Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation at the 2006 TED Talks. The case he makes for CREATIVITY to be valued as highly as LITERACY in the 21st century is both persuasive and thought provoking. I need to read his book “Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative.” Take a few minutes and give a listen:

The idea of schools following different models IS included in Grego’s article I initially cited. I agree with the following, which is a quotation he includes from Thomas Toch’s 2003 publication, “High Schools on a Human Scale: How Small Schools Can Transform American Education”:

As a result, state and local school boards need to become managers of portfolios of schools; instead of operating schools, as they do now, boards need to ensure that all students have access to the variety of quality educational options supplied by many institutions and organizations.

I also agree with the subheader title in his article, “Everyone learns; everyone teaches.” This idea of schools being filled with LEARNERS rather than having strictly (rigidly) defined TEACHER and STUDENT roles is also solid.

The range of opinions and agendas in the school reform debate can be confusing, and I’m continuing to sort out where the voices are and what my own opinions are. I’ve needed to do this for some time, but this latest post has pushed me to create a new “schoolreform” blog category, and I’ve gone back to add that category to some of my previous posts that relate to educational reform.

We need to change schools, but we definitely need to be careful about who we listen to and the advice we follow when crafting policies. The bottom line to educational reform movements should be preparing students for the future and helping them engage in meaningful WORK as well as PLAY of value. Yes, at times “doing school” should mean “having fun.” Playing with ideas in powerful ways can not only be engaging and meaningful, it can also be a LOT of fun. Learners of all ages need to experience these types of learning “flow” activities on a regular basis. The type of CREATIVE and INNOVATIVE citizens we need today that can LEAD US into the future need to be more deliberately edified and supported by our formal educational institutions than they are today.

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