These are my notes from a conversation with Roger Shank after his keynote presentation at SITE 2007.

There is no way we are going to get governments to do this.

(Roger told story of Engineering design experience with Boeing engineer who had the wrong perspective.)

Curriculum for building a 747 in the course of a year: was brainstormed with folks at Boeing in Wichita, KS
– don’t know if we’ll get the money to build that curriculum

Professors will kill you every time because of their own vested interests
– they care most about making sure they don’t have to teach algebra

Home schoolers are a great candidate set for this


Book “Scrooge Meets Dick and Jane” (Scrooge is head of College testing board)

I showed the “worm curriculum” to the college board

One part of my plan is to get letters from college presidents that say they will accept/admit students who take and complete the Vista alternative curriculum (Stanford President has already agreed to write one)

The Internet is the whole issue now
– it has changed everything
– I can now get the isolated kid in Kansas connected with others doing engineering design

The issue of who is giving out degrees is now less of an issue

You can’t get change within the system because you can’t beat the SATs and ACTs
– those tests are stupid and are now getting bigger
– those tests now rule the current system

College Board, all professors, legislators who love test results, college presidents: All of those people are against you as an educational reformer

6 P’s
– press
– publishers
– parents (if you talk Algebra otu o
– politicians (who care less about education: how many ‘education presidents and governors’ have we had, do politicians REALLY want a highly educated electorate? John Locke was writing about this in the 1700s, all education is about keeping people in power)

Last 2 P’s are Princeton
– stands for all th
– also educational testing

Seventh P: Professors

Response to question about Shakespeare being important for learning about life lessons
– education is zero sum
– life lessons are more important than Shakespeare
– I would rather address issues that would really

We have to ask ourselves what we want to teach kids
– the question is, is there a better way to teach those lessons?

Problem is intellectuals have designed the school system
– we should not be trying to create “more of us”
– that part of the system is not broken
– what about people who will
– I am concerned about 95% of the people out there who are not intellectuals

We have phonics/whole language arguments because those subjects are the wrong ones
– we need to be more focused on the CONTENT and CONTEXT
– we shouldn’t teach reading outside the CONTEXTS which kids care about

“Slip, Slap, Slop” is a passage for the FCAT this year
– it is completely absurd, your eyes just glaze over

What we ask kids to read in many cases is ABSURD

There is no “right way” to teach math
– because you need to learn it in the right context
– asking for the divsor when

Understanding what people CARE ABOUT is really easy

underlying question: what are we trying to get learners to DO or ACCOMPLISH
– the answer can’t be: “to do math”
– make your own list of things that people do everyday and need to get better out

Corporate training is provided almost entirely by corporations in their own facilities in the United States

Redefining the role of the teacher: how would you redo schools of education
– I certainly think teachers are on my side, except those who love being in charge of classrooms
– I don’t expect colleges of education to help me one iota
– there is a vested interest in Colleges of Education to keep their curriculum within the knowledge base of their existing faculty, and most faculty don’t know much about these things

Story of my 3rd grader refusing to do his reading homework
– reason: it is beyond boring and stupid
– proposal was a “read a book” program
– parents complained whose kids were good at circling answers and doing worksheets, they complained to their

I am doing this deliberately as a not-for-profit
– I care less today about money
– if anyone wants this now, you are welcome to it
– there are certain situations that will work better, so I want to have some control over thise
– I’m working with people who understand this
– the real issues: the right kids (every kid is not going to do well with this: kids who want to learn and are frustrated with what they
– will have the health sciences curriculum in September: Steve Wycoff of ESSDACK is helping get a group of 50 students to do this in Kansas next year
– I think 1 mentor can handle 50 – 100 kids at one time over the course of a year

I’m expecting to charge small amounts for the curriculum for home schoolers
– mentors won’t be free

Summerhill, Montessori, different schools have tended to provide more open alternatives for learning
– problem is not many of those have worked at the high school level

There is not subject I’m not interested in doing

Kids are not going to design curriculum, I don’t even think teachers should design it
– those who should design it are those who know the content in depth, and understand the way that learners really learn

I am trying to make a revolution happen, and when you’re trying to do that you think about scale a lot
– I am not just thinking about the U.S.
– I am thinking about countries all over the world, the other country I work the most with is Pakistan

I think Kipp schools are a disaster

participant comment: In Sweden we have a phrase “souls on fire” to describe those who are passionate about things like school change, but the problem is that those things don’t scale

Can’t ask everyone to be a curriculum designer
– our problem as intellectuals is that we almost always see the world through the lens of our own educational experiences

How about a class in music entrepreneurship
– can’t I work almost every skill into a curriculum focused on that?

I have a problem with the term “vocational training”
– Yale President claimed they don’t do “training”
– Yale is a professor training program
– everything is training and vocational (if you use the world “vocational” as a pejoritive you’ve missed the point)

“Beer and Circus: How Big-time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education” (Murray Sperber)

book “The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton” (Jerome Karabel) about how the college admissions system has changed over the last 100 years and why
– lots of anti-semitism

SATS were created to make an “objective number” to keep blacks out of colleges

We need to get rid of the ridiculous idea that the responsibility of

We are held hostage by lazy admissions procedures at colleges!

Why can’t they get rid of the SATs? Because of US News and World Report ranks universities on average SATs. That is the reason. Isn’t that sad?

Ian worked at WSU and tried to get rid of the GRE, and same reason was provided they couldn’t do it: the GRE was/is the measuring stick.

The politicians will always try to screw up education, they have a vested interest in NOT getting real education to happen in schools

I am a realistic revolutionary
– a lot of revolutionaries in history were just focused on getting the revolution started
– I want to also focus on sustainability

No matter what you do, Harvard and Yale win
– but I can win the high school argument by building the best high school
– April is “elementary school month” for me based on who has called me
– my next speech is in Jacksonville for elementary folks, next is a preK-3 speech in Pakistan

“Coloring Outside the Lines: Raising a Smarter Kid by Breaking All the Rules” (Roger C. Schank) is a book I wrote for parents who were so frustrated with the
– six important traits of a successful child
– now let’s talk about how we teach curiosity

I am all for kids learning to do well things in the kid world

I don’t want kids to learn that to be successful they need to just remain quiet, passive listeners

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4 Responses to Changing Schools: A conversation with Roger Schank

  1. andy carvin says:

    Glad to see Roger’s still in the game. I studied under him in the early 90s at Northwestern, and the work he did with Chip Cleary inspired me to create my EdWeb site in 1994.

  2. Scott McLeod says:

    Wesley, I can’t really tell from your notes… Professors are a problem? Can you explain more? Thanks!

  3. Wesley Fryer says:

    Roger explains why he thinks professors are problematic in this article:

  4. Amy Vejraska says:

    Reading this post makes me wish two things-
    1. I wish I had more time to read the flood of blog entries that are so current and critical to what I do every day in the classroom
    2. I wish I would have been in San Antonio! I was impressed by METC in St. Louis, but it seems that Texas really has it going on-

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