The history of education and the role it plays in society has been in a whirlwind since its beginning. The role school plays in our society now should far exceed the role it played in the past. Here’s an adage I’m sure all of us have heard, “You have to know where you came from to know where you’re going.” Have you sat down to think about the role education played in our heyday as students versus the role it plays now? Since the beginning of time every generation has sought to pass on social values, tradition, religion, skills, knowledge, etc. Most importantly, we have the responsibility to be honest with our students and give them a sort of “this how things are going to be in the real world” if you will.
What if the world and its expectations are changing every five to eight years instead of every generation? The video below certainly suggests that it does. Our responsibility changes from preparing students for the world they currently live in to preparation for how the world is going to be. It is our responsibility to give our students the mind-set it takes to be ahead of the curve. Being ahead of the curve has to become the expectation for all of our students, not just the ones we consider “accelerated.”
When I look at how American students are now ranked 25th in math and 21st in science when compared to students in 30 other industrialized countries, I think “wow we have to change our curriculum.” I am a fan of trying differentiated instruction, project based learning, technology in the classroom, as well as an array of creative ideas in our schools; however, I wouldn’t say lacking those things in the classroom is what’s gotten us to where we are.
The first public high school was created in 1821 in Boston and was the beginning of the creation of more public schools and resulted in the U.S. becoming the most literate nation at that time. By the early 1900’s, we began to make public education available to more people, keeping us ahead of the curve. By 1940, half of all young adults had high school diplomas. Just think of how the importance of education had grown and how that emphasis on education made us who we were in the latter 20th century. All those achievements were awesome in their time. If we could only have another “space race,” or even better, how can we have the “space race” moment stay? I have a few suggestions based on things I’ve read that I will post about in the coming weeks and months.
We can no longer idly wait for something incredible such as the space race to come along again. We have to find a way to keep the pedal to the metal, to always be moving ahead, and at times be willing to make radical changes to our education system. A society that was mostly literate was an incredible statistical success in the mid 1900’s. In the 21st century, I have to quote Alvin Toffer in saying “The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” While the role of education in our society should be to “produce students that are productive and responsible,” our goal has to far exceed our role and produce students that are on the breaking edge of technology through math, science, and English. I truly believe that if we aren’t creating the inventors and entrepreneurs of today, the America as we know it today will become the America of the past.