Please don’t think this unfair, but our schools do not know how to adapt to the ever-changing needs of learners. Sure, some teachers are exceptionally dedicated. And, yes, schools continue, in a round about way, to meet their basic intent. Basic intent? What is that? Ask Catherine the Great. Science, English, math, social studies, and foreign languages form the basis of a national system designed expressly to produce — are you tired of hearing it yet? — good soldiers who follow orders, good factory assembly-line workers who gladly perform repetitive, mundane tasks, and good citizens who compliantly pay their taxes and never (ok, almost never) question authority. The implication, of course, is that anyone not living within these boundaries is somehow bad.
To what end? We have morphed into a one-size-fits-all world of schooling, strongly focused on teaching rather than learning, where standards that typically stifle creativity and innovation are the norm. Rote memorization and the quest for high test scores rule the day, while young people deeply passionate about learning are rarely, as a rule, encouraged to fully develop innate intelligence and hone critical thinking skills.
As the system wallows in the deep, despairing pit of inertia, many of those young people are saying “Enough, already!” to the status quo. They are walking out, and walking on. Either our system of education will transform (reform is utterly ineffective), or our children will opt out. A great many are doing so already. Consider the explosive growth of the homeschool/unschool movement, e-schools, and e-learning via the internet.
What to do? Get rid of high schools. Get over it. Fourteen-year-old homeschoolers are flourishing in community colleges. Everywhere else, TRANSFORM! Put the learner in charge of, well, their learning. Begin by getting rid of the lecture. At best, only 20% of learners are auditory. At the same time, make haste to get back to community. And get back to the arts. Use the shells of former high schools to create community centers for the arts. Help our young people find — and reimagine — the big picture. Meet their need for expression with gusto (writing centers, music centers, gaming houses, production studios)! Then, let them ship (i.e., let young people lead and execute far-reaching, world-changing projects, become nonprofit directors, produce music and movies, solve world hunger, etc.)!
What else can we do? Lose the administration apparatus and, yes, rid our society of federal and state meddling in the form of education departments. Tell the schools of education to forego the big bucks and forge ahead (else the young people will forge ahead without them and there will be no bucks). We don’t need good soldiers, good workers, and good citizens. We need an end to education (i.e., drawing from that which is already known), we need to move away from processes (i.e., strategic planning and the like), and we need to move toward creative innovation, strategic intuition, and perception. Staff, teachers, and administrators will need to shed their ego, relinquish their titles and their overrated positional authority as ‘adults,’ and climb out of their rigid, numbing routines to become co-learners, accomplices in discovery; it is not enough to be mentors and coaches, even very good mentors and coaches.
Bottom line: Be the bridge our young people need to escape the boredom of buildings, boundaries, borders, and beliefs so they may discover breakthroughs and new beginnings!