The Future is Now!
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the phrase, “21st Century Education.” I’m tired of it because it is over-used, because it makes it sound like nothing done in the 20th century has any relevance and because we are into the second decade of the 21st century. Enough! The 21st century is not some futuristic time or place; it is here and it is now.
Then what do we really mean when we speak about education for our children? Our children need a meaningful and relevant education that will foster an authentic passion for learning. Many of the skills that are being promoted today are skills children should have always been learning.
So what is new? What is new is the real conversation taking place that schools in America are not places that promote meaningful and relevant learning. Schools focus on acquiring knowledge and applying knowledge. Students are assessed on those two aspects of learning, neglecting the many other types of learning that are necessary in today’s world. We don’t need to theorize about what our current students will need when they become adults, because in front of our eyes, the world has already changed and continues to change and we know what they need now.
Old economic assumptions are no longer reliable; the economic engine of our country, indeed the world, is changing. We live in a global community, a flat world, which has changed the game for us. Blue-collar jobs are disappearing and traditional “white collar” jobs are changing. Technology is advancing more quickly than we can imagine, and new jobs and possibilities are invented everyday somewhere in America and around the world. We can no longer pretend that we can plan or predict our children’s future or be certain about what knowledge they will need to successfully engage in this new world order.
I embrace this as a wonderful and exciting time. While it is uncertain, and any time of change necessitates uncertainty, it is also a time of endless possibilities. Our children deserve to be in schools that provide a meaningful and relevant education to ignite their passion for learning – because to be successful today and tomorrow requires flexibility and adaptability, which means to be in a constant state of learning.
There are so many ways to spark a passion for learning, including the many uses of technology and the Internet. Progressive schools are creating dynamic classroom environments and authentic learning opportunities that foster creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, innovation, curiosity, understanding, and more. When children learn how to learn, develop a passion for learning, and master the skills just listed, they can take these abilities and apply them just about anywhere with confidence.
Policy makers who insist that public schools teach and test children in the narrow realm of knowledge acquisition are failing to teach our children what they really need and are ultimately causing the crisis in American education. Teachers know this; educational leaders know this; and our public educational system refuses to retool.
This is not the case in the independent school world where many such schools across the United States and abroad are creating dynamic learning environments that are responding to our changing reality. Last week more than 1700 educators from schools across the Midwest, including the entire faculty of Hillel Day School, attended the ISACS conference at Cobo Center where we heard and shared purposeful learning innovations taking place in independent schools. Hillel teachers left the conference knowing that, as a school, we are on the right track, and the teachers took with them renewed energy to push forward. We have the freedom to act and to change to better meet the needs of our children; and that is exactly what we are doing – creating a relevant and meaningful education to “inspire a passion for learning”.