James Daly’s 2007 interview with Alvin Toffler, “Reshaping Learning from the Ground Up,” should be considered mandatory reading for anyone seeking to reform and/or transform formal education in the 21st century.
Toffler is clear on our need for charter schools. We MUST diversify our educational landscape. Charter schools offer one way forward when it comes to creative diversification. Is every charter school a creative school? No. However, many charter schools are. Toffler said:
Any form of diversity that we can introduce into the schools is a plus. Today, we have a big controversy about all the charter schools that are springing up. The school system people hate them because they’re taking money from them. I say we should radically multiply charter schools, because they begin to provide a degree of diversity in the system that has not been present. Diversify the system.
There are eight fundamental elements to the vision of transformed schools and formal learning which Toffler advocated in 2007. They were and are:
- [School] Open 24 hours a day
- Customized educational experience
- Kids arrive at different times
- Students begin their formalized schooling at different ages
- Curriculum is integrated across disciplines
- Nonteachers work with teachers
- Teachers alternate working in schools and in business world
- Local businesses have offices in the schools
- Increased number of charter schools
Toffler argues, correctly I think, that we must do a better job connecting students to topics they love and about which they are passionate. He said in 2007:
When I was a student, I went through all the same rote repetitive stuff that kids go through today. And I did lousy in any number of things. The only thing I ever did any good in was English. It’s what I love. You need to find out what each student loves. If you want kids to really learn, they’ve got to love something. For example, kids may love sports. If I were putting together a school, I might create a course, or a group of courses, on sports. But that would include the business of sports, the culture of sports, the history of sports — and once you get into the history of sports, you then get into history more broadly.
Toffler also raised in 2007 the spectre of “schools as babysitters,” which we’re dealing with NOW in Oklahoma as more schools propose moving from a five day to a four day school week because of budget shortfalls. Toffler noted accurately:
The schools of today are essentially custodial: They’re taking care of kids in work hours that are essentially nine to five — when the whole society was assumed to work. Clearly, that’s changing in our society. So should the timing. We’re individualizing time; we’re personalizing time. We’re not having everyone arrive at the same time, leave at the same time. Why should kids arrive at the same time and leave at the same time?
Toffler is a radical when it comes to school change. He advocates re-imagining and re-creating schools from the ground up, not simply reforming our existing school institutions. He baldly recommended in 2007, “Shut down the public education system,” roughly quoting Bill Gates as saying, “We don’t need to reform the system; we need to replace the system.”
How many people in our communities are brave enough to suggest we should re-imagine and re-create our schools?
Is “breaking” the public school system the real agenda of NCLB and Race To The Top, so it can be replaced with a new system? Is this a “global neoliberal assault” on teachers and our schools? If so, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Toffler appears to have said (in 2007) it’s good.
We are in the midst of a learning revolution, and we need to serve as local catalysts within this learning revolution. Is it possible to transform our existing, traditional schools into the innovative, creative and flexible schools we need? It’s all about change. Can our leaders serve as effective shepherds of change, or will they dig their heels in the ground and strive to stop the tide?
Kudos to EduTopia, harbinger of the learning revolution.
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