Even as we adults work individually to keep our own lives headed in the right direction, the world around us is in chaos. A polarized and paralyzed Washington D.C. can’t handle our runaway debt and stubborn unemployment. Globally, only climate change dwarfs the challenges of entrenched poverty and hunger. We have no idea what the world’s going to be like in ten years, let alone when your child retires in fifty or sixty years. The craziness is unprecedented.
One thing we do know: the world is hiring problem solvers. That entails coming up with solutions; figuring out ways to do things that haven’t been done before. It won’t happen without imagination and creativity and an experiment-friendly environment. So, if every six-year-old is creative and not afraid to try something new, what’s the challenge? Creating the conditions to nurture and encourage that curiosity, so they still love learning at sixteen, and twenty-six. If our existing schools don’t do it, can we change education so they do?
It’s happening. Partly as a push-back to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ model and it’s emphasis on route memorization, innovative teachers make learning practical, relevant and hands-on. For example, perhaps they’ll take a grove of trees on school grounds and learn ecology through a multi-year exploration series. History, writing and math are integrated in lessons that include “doing things” as they come to understand their connections with the world around them. They encourage questions and challenge students, empowering them to problem solve together- perhaps water quality improvements through habitat restoration. It may entail bringing in local native plant experts or pitching to city council members, but they get chances to discover their unique strengths and passions.
We’re not going to solve the problems we face with the thinking that created them. -Einstein.
Today is the most interesting time in the history of the world to be alive and by opening up the classroom will our graduates be ready to redesign the world- beginning in the classroom.
P.S. A couple promising examples, linking local needs with world challenges:
A unique school experiment in Chicago