In the ideal educational future, is there a single design principle that matters most in establishing the optimal learning environment for children?
That seems like a pretty important question to consider. And if you were to go by today’s leading reform strategies, you might conclude that the answer is, variably, greater accountability, better use of data, more strategic use of technology, or more personalization (all good things, by the way). Yet for my money, the design principle that matters most is the one modern reform efforts care about the least – the extent to which schools are creating true laboratories of democratic practice.
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That’s a question I try to answer in my new book, Our School: Searching for Community in the Era of Choice. But there are some other questions I try to answer — specifically, the ones Greater Greater Washington’s Natalie Wexler asked me in this Q&A about the book.
Too often, when I look around at what passes for innovative practices or cutting-edge policy recommendations, I see something very different: I see us perfecting our ability to succeed in a system that no longer serves our interests.
Two recent articles reinforce this point — and light a different path, one that will actually help us reimagine education for a changing world.
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Imagine if more places were as concerned with integration (as opposed to separation) as the fundamental design principle of a great learning environment?
I’d characterize this one as a pretty reasoned conversation about the issue — which is surprising, since it comes from Democracy Now, which is pretty clearly in one camp and not the other. I attribute that to Steve Barr bringing some nuance to the conversation.
Still, listen to both sides, and judge for yourselves . . .
At the New Teacher Center conference a few years ago, I watched a master teacher model a great way to introduce students to new material. She projected a single image onto the screen in our conference room — it was Liberty Leading the People — and asked us a single question, over and over again: “What do you see?” Any observation (“I see a strong woman”) would prompt a second question from the instructor (“What’s your evidence?”). It was fun, and illuminating, and after ten minutes, based on nothing more than our own close observations, we were ready to study the French Revolution.
I was reminded of that workshop recently, when I saw someone on Twitter share the following picture:
Imagine if, kissing aside, we were always so present with one another?
Tags: good video
I can’t believe it took as long as it did for me to first hear about Ray Kurziwell’s idea of the Singularity — the moment when humankind and machines merge, forevermore. Then I started to watch those creepy DARPA videos about their latest research, and then I went and saw Spike Jonze’s remarkable film, Her.
If you’re late to the game, you may want to start with this Guardian story about Kurziwell, and about the future of artificial intelligence. You might as well also go see Her. And just to underscore the legitimacy of these seemingly far-fetched stories, consider that Kurziwell is now the director of engineering for Google.
In the span of a few weeks, all of DC seems to be abuzz with the prospect that our elected officials may actually try to ensure greater racial and socioeconomic equity in the city’s public schools — apple carts be damned.
First, there was the Op-Ed two colleagues and I published in the Washington Post, calling for the adoption of controlled-choice policies as part of the city’s current effort to reconsider neighborhood school boundary lines.
The next day, the Department of Education released new guidelines that would allow charter schools to employ weighted lotteries that gave preference to disadvantaged student populations.
Meanwhile, the latest edition of Washington City Paper features a cover story about Roosevelt High School that places the issue of integration and school boundaries squarely in context, by way of a crumbling beauty of a school building that is currently under renovation — and seriously under-enrolled. And listerves like this one are burning up with a mixture of interest, anxiety and vitriol at the idea of such a dramatic departure from the norm (does someone really think I should be tarred and feathered?).
What do you think? Is integration worthy of being prioritized as a policy goal in a city like Washington, DC? If cities have a responsibility to ensure greater equity in their public schools, are there other, better ways to do so? And, in the end, is there any way to strike the right balance between honoring people’s individual choices against a community’s shared sense of values and responsibilities?
Looking forward to hearing people’s ideas and concerns.