The Articles I Read:
50 Crazy Ideas to Change Education
In a two word synthesis: Educational Reform. All of these articles contain radical ideas for the future of education, radical ideas that I hope to have a share in during my career as an educator. They focus on how to better inspire “learning” and to get away from the traditional “schooling” methods. Many of them take a look at the common practices of today’s classrooms and propose alternative methods for creating a true learning environment. Not all of them include a discussion of technology, but all of them are useful in understanding a future where technology has a strong presence and role. Additionally, a few of the articles are or contain bulleted lists that I felt were great aids for future educators.
I agreed with much of the content presented in the articles. I choose them because they reflected my opinions and viewpoint. However, I did diverge from the authors’ way of thinking at times. For example, Terry Heick’s 50 Crazy Ideas to Change Education was exactly what the title promised. The ideas presented are entirely revolutionary and can only come about from a serious change in the way the world of education thinks. The passion is clear, but the reality isn’t. The ideas proposed in the article will take time to catch on if they ever do. Some aren’t practical because of the sheer magnitude of the public education system. It is completely impossible to meet the needs of a classroom’s thirty students on an individual basis, and many people who propose such ideas forget the value in unity. The culture in America constantly rewards uniqueness, and laments the fact that nobody can agree on anything. In an ideal world, her “crazy ideas” make sense and should be followed, but in the practical world, they just aren’t all possible, at least not all of them and especially not all of them at once on a grand scale.
Change is constant, but change can also occur slowly, and we as educators need to respect that. Some of the ideas can occur with the support of the educators putting them in place. For example, on a daily basis, good educators do try to make their classrooms a place where students want to be (#10). However, I don’t hold out as much hope for some of the other ideas. Some of them aren’t practical and others call for a serious change of heart. For example, mandatory schooling is a societal staple (#5). It’s not going away because it “ideally” produces an educated society and provides day care for working parents. Also, money doesn’t grow on trees (for those who think it’s made out of paper, it’s not; it’s made out of cloth) (#19). Without serious incentive or a drastic shift in cultural and governmental priorities, schools won’t be looking like Fortune 500 companies any time soon. The ideas that reflect an attitude adjustment are on to something, but they are onto something big and gradual. For example, students who are underperforming (for “controllable” reasons) should be held accountable but in a way that’s meaningful and knowledge-based (#21). Also, the ultimate goal of education should be to learn more about oneself (#49); However, I don’t see education going in any of these directions any time soon, and especially not at a quick pace.
The second article by Heick that I read concerning how to integrate Google effectively, raised some red flags for me as well. The “Google” article also reflected Heick’s idealistic viewpoint by asking readers to encourage self-fulfillment rather than standards and competencies, focusing on the immeasurable rather than the measurable. Although I would like this to happen and would do anything in my power to work toward it, I think Heick takes too many liberties and jumps several steps ahead of where the educational system is in the here and now.
Heick wasn’t the only author I argued with, though. I also argued with the article on the list above that concerns progressive schools. I have been taught to admire Alfie Kohn in my education classes, but I just recently had a negative experience with his philosophies. I volunteer at a local elementary school’s afterschool program where I help the students with their homework. Many are unmotivated and easily distracted. They show a limited attention span while simultaneously demonstrating their abilities to perform. If we’re taught to follow the fourth characteristic of progressive schools, we look at the task first, but after working with these students I’ve seen the danger in doing that. The students now expect their teacher to blame the work and not them, so their weaknesses go unnoticed and they come to the inaccurate understanding that if they can’t do it, the work is the issue. They no longer appreciate that they have faults and challenges, and therefore, are unwilling and unprepared to counteract those obstacles. This can lead to a lack of resiliency which has become a serious issue for the students I tutor.
When all is said and done, we should realize that there is indeed a need for change, and quite probably the radical ideas proposed in these articles (particularly by Heick) are the answers to the questions we’ve been asking ourselves in education for generations. However, holistic change will be slow, and it must be deliberate or put into practice in a unified manner. The first step for the pre-service educator, then, is to contribute to the conversation. Start with what you know and feel comfortable putting into practice; be educated and identify the strategies that you gravitate toward as being easiest to implement. Listen to the ideas of others and take the ideas that you like and that you think will work in your classroom and start using them. See how they work, test them out. Then, never stop doing that and challenge yourself when it comes to trying something you’re not sure of. Reflect on the things that worked and the things that didn’t work and really analyze why the did or didn’t work. Modify the method, advocate for a broader implementation of the strategy, and help collegues use it effectively. Then, we’ll start to educate the way we really want to.