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A Manifesto for Education in the 21’st Century

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Karen Lewis, the Chicago Teacher’s Union President, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have a testy relationship at best…

Lewis said she got her answer about Emanuel’s character rather quickly.

“In that conversation, he did say to me that 25 percent of the students in this city are never going to be anything, never going to amount to anything and he was never going to throw money at them.”


So, 25% of the kids in school in Chicago will never “be anything” and never “amount to anything”.  So let’s not waste our time or money.

Has anyone really thought about what we want our kids to amount to or become? Is the role of education and school in the industrial age of the 20’th century the same as the role of education in the 21’st century?  Perhaps the 75% of the students that do amount to something are really amounting to the wrong thing given the new opportunities of the 21’st century  Are we giving our students an industrial-age education when that age has long passed?

What has changed?  In the 21’st century we have an abundance of information rather than scarcity.  If we can look things up on the internet in a fraction of a second why do we force our students to memorize so much – what a waste.  In the 21’st century we are globally connected.  Why do students study in isolation?  The smartest person in the room is not a student, nor the aggregate of students, but the room itself.  The room is the network that joins the people and ideas.  What prepares students to collaborate in the globally connected world?  What will success look like in the 21’st century?  Who will be rewarded?  Show up on time, do what your boss tells you, do your job and only your job, wait for instructions on what to do next.  That will no longer get you anywhere.  The rewards will go to those who will take initiative, take risks, are not afraid to fail, solve problems, connect data to create information, collaborate, create, and move forward.   How does today’s education system teach this?

Someone who has given some thought to the role, purpose, and delivery of education in the 21’st century is Seth Godin

Check out his manifesto on education here –

Here’s the impetus for this work …

I don’t know how to change school, can’t give you a map or a checklist. What I do know is that we’re asking the wrong questions and making the wrong assumptions.  The best tactic available to every taxpayer and parent and concerned teacher is to relentlessly ask questions, not settling for the status quo.

“Is this class/lecture/program/task/test/policy designed to help our students do the old thing a little more efficiently, or are we opening a new door to enable our students to do something that’s new and different?” School is doing the best job it knows how to create the output it is being asked to create. We ought to be asking school to make something different. And the only way to do that is to go about it differently.

The simple way to make something different is to go about it in a whole new way. In other words, doing what we’re doing now and hoping we’ll get something else as an outcome is nuts. Once we start to do schooling differently, we’ll start to get something different.

Read another perspective … from Prof. Walter E. Williams of George Mason University
Should we stop trying to teach the unteachable?

Written by frrl

March 4, 2012 at 6:33 am

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