Have you ever thought what you might do if you won the lottery? Once in a while I do, but I have only played twice in the past 10 years…for about $3.00. But I can dream. I imagine what I would do with $300 million in my pocket. I seem to only think about the lottery when the jackpot is huge!
In my imaginative world, I would abolish school as we know it and start over. I would analyze which pieces of education are provided for the convenience of the ‘teacher’ and which for the ‘learner.’ What role should teachers play? What should learners actually DO? How should they demonstrate what they have learned and what they know? What should we learn? I am going to ignore financing for now, but I would eradicate property taxes as the funding basis for education (to be further discussed in the future). It is a formula that favors the wealthy over the poor and is inherently unfair in a democracy.
In my new world, traditional school buildings lose their importance. Instead, people participate in Centers of Inquiry (CI). These CI could be in large buildings, church basements, cafes like Starbucks, or someone’s living room. In my world it would be recognized that large schools exist primarily because of industrial age ‘efficiency,’ not for any inherent learning purpose. They are also costly; in cold regions they cost huge sums to heat; in warm areas they cost a lot to cool. And they are only used for a portion of a day for actual ‘learning.’ CIs could be spontaneous, responding to student concerns, or regular, depending on the subject.
Students would have far more latitude on their curriculum. The curriculum, after basic skills—which also need to be redefined to match the needs of the 21st century—should focus on student strengths. The current model penalizes students for what they can’t do. This is especially the case in the array of standardized tests students are subjected to. Students need to undergo a series of learning assessments and interest surveys to determine their strengths before they begin their formal study, short- and long-term goals established and mentors found.
Mentors, known as Learning Experts (LIs), may or may not be teachers, but will be under the overall supervision of teachers. All LIs and teachers will be trained in the newest methodology. With their LIs, students pursue a variety of learning modules that include working in cooperative groups, producing projects and developing authentic assessments.
Students would travel, explore environmental issues, develop apprenticeships that lead to actual jobs and learn to develop apps and analyze how video games are made. They would analyze local construction projects, find ways to improve transportation options and research how to open a restaurant. The education community would cease becoming a preparation ground for professional sports. Sports would instead be part of each community, as in Europe.
Education would fulfill Dewey’s notion of education and community being inextricably interlinked.