It's Time for Our Schools to Leave the 20th Century

       You know the old joke about Rip Van Winkle and schools?  He falls asleep for a hundred years and upon waking up he sees everything he used to know has changed dramatically.  The houses look so different.  The clothes that people wear are very different.  And the cars...wow.  Then he finds a school and walks inside.  He goes into a classroom and he is comforted to see that schools and classrooms haven't changed a bit.

       We educators don't think this is very funny.

       In fact, it is embarrassing for us carry out the important work of education today in the same way that we did this work 50 or 30 or even 20 years ago.  Doing so ignores the research about learning that has been done over the past few decades.  It ignores the research about how the brain reacts to the stimuli that occurs in classrooms.

       For instance, we know that most students can't learn to the best of their ability strictly by sitting in class for a whole class period and listening to the teacher talking (and taking notes).  We know that students are more engaged when they have the opportunity to participate verbally and when they have a chance to get up out of their seat and participate physically in some way.  We have technology that we didn't have (even 20) years ago that can be tapped to help our students to prepare for the information world that they will enter after high school.

        We are not preparing our students by merely teaching them to read, write, and do arithmetic.  These things are important, but they are not enough.  Memorizing facts long enough to get a good test grade will not prepare our children for the world that they will inherit.  Our schools have the responsibility to mirror the society that our students will experience.

       Twentieth Century schooling is not what our students need.  Most of them have never even lived in the 20th century.  I believe that our current education leaders understand this need for our schools to change.  Part of the responsibility of our public schools is to explain this need for change to our parents and to our communities.  Staying the same is easy; change is hard.  Schools often face opposition from communities who tend to say that "The old way was good enough for me and it's good enough for our kids."  We need to make the case against this sort of thinking.

       Someone needs to speak for our students and for their futures.



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