“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” Albert Einstein (1947)
Ask a typical student (if there is such a thing as one) in a typical school (if there is such a thing as one) in my pretty typical school division (Albemarle) in a pretty typical state (Virginia) today what they think of school and you will likely get an answer like, “It’s ok.” Push them – “Is it as good as it could be?” – and they will say, “No.” “What would make it better?” and they will describe their desire to learn things that matter beyond the test TOGETHER and without coercion. They don’t want to have to keep up with thick homework packets, they don’t want to copy notes down from the board (“Can’t she just give us a PowerPoint or something?”) and they don’t want to solve the same problem 35 times with just different numbers. They want to learn things that matter beyond the test TOGETHER and without coercion.
“So, if you could pick what you learned about in school, what would you pick?” And the 13 year old young man responded, “You see, I am really in to music so I would like to learn more about it. But she (motioning to the young lady beside him) is really in to graphic novels, so she would like to learn more about them. But we come here (to school) and we have to learn about stuff just because the state or somebody says we do and it’s going to be on some test.”
“Do you think it’s possible for a teacher to teach you what’s going to be in the test through music?” And the 13 year old young man responded, “Maybe in some classes, but I don’t think my teachers have time. And, I don’t think they know enough about music. I mean, my history teacher could let us listen to music from the olden days we are studying and that would be better than just reading about it and filling out worksheets and practice multiple choice tests.”
“So, you don’t think your teachers are very smart or creative”? “That’s not what I am saying. My teachers are smart and they work really hard, there’s just this test we have to take.” “What do you think school was like before these tests?” “I don’t know, my mom said she had homework, too, she just did it out of a textbook and not packets she had to keep in a binder. They didn’t have the Internet, either.”
What was school like BEFORE these tests? Did kids get to choose what they learned and how they learned it? Were authentic performances of mastery commonplace and open to the public? Were kids grouped by age or interests? How were schools organized? How were teachers assigned to groups of kids? How did teachers work together? How were teachers evaluated? How did they get better? Did all kids learn what they needed to in order to succeed in life? Did kids learn to learn?
What will schools be like AFTER these tests? Will schools even exist? Will they be giving better tests? Will they be organized differently OR at all?
What was the curriculum like in a one-room school house? Was it provided by the government or was it governed by the teacher and the community? Was it based on producing right answers or learning to read, write, compute, and think? Was the one-room school house education 1.0?
What version are we in right now? What happens when a new version is not as user friendly or as powerful as the one before? What will the next version be like?