Today’s American classrooms appear oddly similar to the classrooms at the turn of the 20th century. Rows of wooden desks, chalkboards, and a teacher commanding the room, clog the space. Folks, this is your great-great-great-great grandfather’s classroom.
The American education system sucks. We currently educate under a 19th century model of education, shaped in the factory-age, stressing conformity and standardization. By and large, it’s really pathetic.
Tom Peters, prominent education speaker, put it best: “We nail facts into students’ heads and there’s nothing wrong with it if the goal is to employ someone for 40 years in a Ford Motor Company Model A factory. The deal is park your brains at the door, dude. Work your nine hours, spend your money at the bar, have a good sleep-off, and do it all over again.”
It makes no sense. All economic value in the 21st century global economy derives from innovations — creating new ideas and molding them into hard-core products and services to better the lives of individuals around the world.
We are currently undergoing what I like to call the “Jobs” Revolution. More specifically, the “Steve Jobs” revolution! Tomorrow’s labor market will not be broken down into blue-collar and white-collar. The middle crux has been carved up. Either you’re a creator or a server. That means either you are a quasi-Steve Jobs — AN INNOVATOR, A SYNTHESIZER, may it be in entertainment, energy, or business OR you are a server — a barber, a firefighter, or a contractor.
As Daniel Pink explains in his book, A Whole New Mind, “We’ve progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we’re progressing yet again — to a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers.” Our education system was molded to churn out farmers and factory workers. That is no longer applicable.
However, the problem is that government believes the pragmatic solution to this mayhem is to implement policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, terrible tasting medicine prescribed by the Bush and Obama administration, respectively. Both policies haveinfatuated our schools with a culture of “drill, kill, bubble fill.” Schools were transformed into test-preparation factories and the process of memorization and regurgitation hijacked classroom learning.
Spineless politicians who didn’t have the wit nor the audacity to fix our education cataclysms indoctrinated the nation simply with rubbish.
I like how Scott Howard, a former superintendent of schools in Perry, Ohio, put it to Time Magazine, “No Child Left Behind is like a Russian novel. That’s because it’s long, it’s complicated, and in the end, everybody get killed.”
I propose that we institute a 21st century model of education, rooted in 21st century learning skills and creativity, imagination, discovery, and project-based learning. We need to stop telling kids to shut up, sit down, and listen to the teacher passively. As Sir Ken Robinson said in his well-acclaimed TED talk, “Schools kill creativity.”
I’m a 16-year-old student at Syosset High School in New York, and I’m currently writing a book on education reform, Time to Think Different: Why America Needs a Learning Revolution (tentative). It was the great education reformer, Paulo Freire who perceptively noted, “If the structure does not permit dialogue, the structure must be changed.”
Students are left out of the debate, even thought we have the most important opinions. I’m writing this book to offer a unique student perspective on the issue. Instead of schools cherishing students’ passions and interests, they destroy them. Let’s raise kids to dream big and think different. America will need to re-kindle the innovative spirit that has propelled in the past. It’s a do or die moment. Bring on the learning revolution!