“Things have changed. Technology has changed, yet not in education…Imagine if that’s how we thought about technology. Every time something doesn’t work you just threw in the towel and said forget it…the fact that you have failure, that shouldn’t stop you from pushing the science forward.”
– Geoffrey Canada
This quote is from a TED Talk by Geoffrey Canada, the founder of Harlem Children’s Zone, a K-12 charter school in inner-city New York. In this talk, Canada makes some great points about the US Education system. He looks at education in terms of a science – the more that we research with standardized testing and other measures, the more we can perfect it. But unfortunately we are NOT using the scientific information we’ve learned to make any beneficial changes. Canada relates education to a failing business model, which would never continue to be used for decades the way we have continued to preserve the same education plans, which keep on failing.
It is absolutely essential that we begin creating new methods to improve the education system. Canada is exactly right – not for one minute have we seized creativity in technology. The 22st century in particular has seen an abundance of new inventions, and our education system seems archaic in comparison. We are stuck in a rut using an education system that doesn’t work nearly as well as it could. Looking towards the future, Canada compared the American education system to those in other countries, concluding that if we do not step up and implement some practical and successful changes, then we might fall behind as world leaders and creators.
In my own education experience, it seems that the classes that took a creative approach were not only the most interesting, but they allowed me an opportunity to think beyond just a test and push my own intellectual boundaries. In high school, I was fortunate enough to take an English class called “Breaking the Mold”. The point of the class was to build a curriculum of books that high school students would find interesting and relevant to encourage us to read. If we were reading then we would actually be able to have intellectual conversations and write thoughtful essays in response. It didn’t matter if it was the highest quality literature, the point was that we would read the book. And it really worked! For once, I wasn’t relying on Sparknotes or skimming minutes before class. When I actually became interested in the literature, it made me want to do the reading, so that I could fully participate in class. For years I dazed through English classes, uninterested in the literature and feeling inadequate. But when I was interested in the material, I wanted to delve into understanding the deeper meaning and the author’s intentions for writing the book.
This is just one example of a creative class structure, but it really did have a significant impact on my education experience. I know there is some required material that students have to learn, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done in a creative way!
Students have some weird opinions about certain class structures, typically being the opposite of what you would expect. It seems that it’s harder to be motivated and truly learn the material in a class where a teacher throws information at you in a stale and concrete format. You stare at a powerpoint, listen to the teacher lecture, copy notes monotonously…it seems to go in one ear and out the other. When you are afraid to take a leap with the material, you don’t end up engaging with it. The goal of learning, in my opinion, has been switched. We are so focused on test scores and grades that get us to college and class rankings. Somehow, among the competition, we have lost sight of the mere importance of LEARNING. We need to find a new approach that can allow students the opportunity to take control of their own education. When they can be excited and interested in improving their own education, instead of just going to school because it’s a requirement, then we will have succeeded.