What is education for?

Always a good question to ask (and ask again), and I like the way environmental educator David Orr answers it for the 1990 graduating class of Arkansas College. See for yourself, and then ask yourself, how might we reimagine our own modern educational systems to engender this sort of awareness in every subsequent generation of young people?

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Categories: Democracy, Learning


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Skin of the earth

I woke up this morning to the picture of dead bodies in Nice.

I woke up to a heartfelt plea by a former student, laying bare her pain and asking those that love her to surround her and lift her up.

I woke from a dream in which I had discovered a forgotten wing of my own house, its uncharted possibilities a symbol of my own heartbreak, my own persistent sense of hope.

So it felt appropriate that my work today was to reveal three prototypes of a “Storytelling Barn” – a place where folks from different backgrounds can come together to break (or make) bread, share stories, and make unusual connections that might spark new ideas.

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Categories: Learning

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The Brock Turner Case is a reminder of the important work White people have to do

Like a lot of you, I’ve been consumed by the Brock Turner case, and its particularly egregious form of privilege-soaked injustice.

Then again, we’re continually bombarded by stories that make it impossible to ignore the extent to which our society perpetuates different rules for different people, based on nothing more than the color of your skin and/or your proximity to power.

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Categories: Equity

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This is what happens when you launch an art bus

Imagine what would happen if we were more courageous in the ways we created space for things such as this. What would change about our world?

The Art Bus Project from Portmanto Media on Vimeo.

Categories: Learning

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This is why you can’t just say that public education is failing

I know, I know — we can do better, and public education in America is in need of a makeover. We’re in the midst of the biggest shifts to how we think about teaching and learning in more than a century, and some of us are a little slower on the uptick. I get it.

Here’s the thing, though — amidst the pressing need for change, amidst the horror stories of abject failure, amidst the reports of growing segregation and inequity — there are also stories like this one, about a remarkable school for the sorts of kids who rarely get to be seen and heard. How might we view the challenges and opportunities ahead if we were more collectively focused on these sorts of schools, and what we can learn from them?

Categories: Equity, Leadership, Learning

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This is what it means to engineer the ridiculous

It comes courtesy of my new friends in Memphis (who we’re working with to design a pretty remarkable new high school), and it captures everything I think we want school to embody: fun, teamwork, problem-solving, a culture of experimentation, productive failures, and soul-satisfying successes.

How might we infuse every school in America with the spirit of this project?

story booth: Engineering the Ridiculous from Crosstown Arts on Vimeo.

Categories: Design & Space, Learning

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The Beautiful Struggle

I’ve yet to meet a grown-up who, at some point, hasn’t felt a bit like a hamster in the wheel – spinning mindlessly towards some opaque goal, and for some abstract, poorly understood reason.

Life can feel that way sometimes.

So you can imagine my surprise when, while visiting a small public high school in the Excelsior neighborhood of San Francisco, I encountered a group of boys working on an indeterminate project out of plywood and a handsaw.

“What are you guys doing?” I asked.

“We’re building a human-sized hamster wheel,” they replied.

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Categories: Assessment, Democracy, Equity, Leadership, Learning, Teacher Quality, Voice

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For America’s Schools, Is This the Beginning of the End of Average?

One year, early in my teaching career, I got reprimanded for giving too many “A’s.”

“You can’t give everyone the same grade,” I was instructed. “Give a few A’s and F’s, and a lot of B’s and C’s. Otherwise, everyone will know that your class is either too easy or too hard.”

This was unremarkable advice; indeed, it was as close to the educational Gospel as you could find. It was human nature in action.

And, according to a new book, it was completely wrong.

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Categories: Equity, Leadership, Learning

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Discipline in schools moves toward peacemaking

The first time he got in trouble, 7-year-old “Z” kicked his teacher — getting him into more trouble.

A few months later, shortly after his grandfather passed away, he kicked his teacher again.

In many schools across the country, where zero tolerance policies allow little wiggle room for understanding why a child may be misbehaving, Z would have been suspended, expelled, or even arrested.

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Categories: Equity, Learning, Organizational Change, Voice

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A Year of Wonder: What is the Future of Higher Ed?

It’s been the no-brainiest of no-brainers for as long as anyone can remember: If you’re a parent, and you have the means to do so, a mark of your commitment to your children is measured by the amount of money you’re able to sock away for their college education.

But what if it’s no longer true?

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Categories: Equity, Organizational Change

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