[Bilde:100619_142329_0.png]On my travels and interviews over the last six
months, I have found that the one thing we all share is the willingness to
make changes. It has been fortuitous for me to have met so many people who
are so interested in doing the right thing for students who will spend
their lives in the 21st century.
I often see professionals who have made great commitments to make
substantive changes in the way that children are educated. These changes
reflect growing social trends in America and the state. These social and
educative trends reflect the need for education to be a completely modern
endeavor. The fundamental basis of what it means to "know" has changed,
so should the basis of what it means to be educated.
And yet, it seems that education or much of education still remains mired
in the swamp of the late 50s and early 60s. The notion that schools turn
out young adults who are fully prepared to take on life's work as if they
were widgets in the factory remains a consistent and common notion, though
it is often unexpressed in direct ways, and sometimes not really
expressed at all. The school as factory is an assumption that is hard to
Rather this notion of school as factory seems to be a predominantly
unexpressed assumption in the minds of adults who may have graduated from
such systems. We look at graduation as a crowning achievement, and yet
what we call a graduation we also call commencement - as it is really a
new beginning. Yet how many people - how many adults and how many parents
- treat commencement as the beginning of a new responsibility regarding
lifelong learning? Perahps rather than say "Congratulations on a job well
done." we should consider saying, "Congratulations on your progress so far
and what will you learn next?"
If we begin to see the end point - graduation, as a beginning commencement
then we might see that everything we do in schools is progress toward only
one single goal, that of preparing young people to become lifelong
learners in a world of rapid change. Peter Vaill coined the phrase
"permanent white water" in his book "Learning As a Way of Being:
Strategies for Survival in a World of Permanent White Water." The concept
of "permanent white water" sums up the challenging reality of life in the
21'st century where change is constant and learning a continuum.
This idea of graduation as an end rather than the signaling of a beginning
indicates to me that we are still under the assumption that we can cram
students minds full of ideas and facts and theories. Yet we also know that
they face real challenges when trying to put this learning into practical
use because they have not been given sufficient opportunities to do so
during school. In some ways schools are mired in mediocrity because
schools cannot bridge the divide between learning in the classroom and
learning in the community.
And by the word community I mean not just a community that surrounds the
school geographically but indeed the community of scholars and thinkers
and planners and creators that's around the school in its largest sense.
In some ways the school may have become more like the ivory tower, distant
and separate from the world.
And so, I wonder what would happen if some of the disciplines we study in
school were integrated into social action which put students into the
community to test that theory and to test the learning of the classroom?
Many schools have requirements for community service. On the other hand
these requirements often stated merely in terms of hours to fulfill in a
kind of bucket. The link from community service to classroom learning is
seldom articulated. And all too often community service takes on all the
aspects of yet another thing to do rather than putting classroom learning
Perhaps it is time to break the bonds of that which has trapped us into
habitual mediocrity. This will not be easy work, it will take the
cooperation and collaboration of teachers, parents, community leaders, and
students themselves. Yet this integration of learning into the fabric of
the community can make learning more real, more relevant.
Such an endeavor might begin to answer the question not as to why we go to
school but why we learn. It might also begin to answer the question about
what is the nature of meaningful learning. We want graduates who
understand and appreciate meaningful learning and we want schools who can
make that learning meaningful for each student.