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Beyond Superman: A Guest Blog by George Lucas

| George Lucas

Twenty years ago when we started The George Lucas Educational Foundation, we thought it would be 10 years before the general public would understand that the education system was in serious need of fixing. Today, in the wake of new energy in Washington D.C., new focus in the educational and philanthropic communities, and with the recent release of the film "Waiting for Superman," the nation is getting a better picture of what is wrong with public education in America. And people are finally talking about it.

It's time to have a conversation about what's right in our schools, what's working. And as we debate what to do to fix the problems, let's remember that there are successes in education everyday we can emulate. In districts of every stripe and demographic make-up, educators are dedicating themselves to providing their students with a high quality 21st century education, and using new technologies to make it happen. They are showing kids how to find and analyze information and how to creatively deploy their analyses to solve problems. These educators are beginning to re-invent the learning process, guiding students through rigorous, real-life projects that integrate core academic topics and personalize the learning experience based on a child's strengths and weaknesses. They are building confidence and ambition in children, by supporting them emotionally and providing a safe, engaging environment to learn. Most importantly, these innovative educators are creating a next generation of citizens with academic knowledge and problem solving abilities that will serve our country for years to come.

Are there enough of these teachers and principals? No. Will the work of fixing our schools and re-inventing the learning process be long and arduous? Of course. But as we move on from the debate and get busy building a better way, let's remember that the solutions--and the people who are implementing them--are not far away. In fact, they are nearer than you think. Check out our video library for hundreds of examples.

--George Lucas, Filmmaker and Founder of the George Lucas Educational Foundation

This blog also appeared in the Huffington Post.

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CEO Enterthegroup.com

Imagine This ...

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Imagine if we were to create a school today with no preconceptions and no knowledge of how schools were run historically. What do you think that school would look like?

Fired ex-Geography/Journalism/English teacher, Houston, Texas

Quote: What if there was a

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What if there was a single person who came forward and declared that they could fix the whole educational system?

That this could even be mused upon is the problem. Panaceas are not worth considering. Analyzing what education is and should accomplish is. Nothing is simple, which is what the lesson must be.

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What if that solution did not require billions of dollars, massive resources, or the adoption of any new legislation? How would we welcome this person? How would we accept this individual who states that they can accomplish what powerful politicians, top administrators, and brilliant minds have been struggling to do for centuries?

Hitler managed to educate his Youth; look what he accomplished: near-total domination of Europe.

Is this what we want? Another dictator? What about facing up to the fact that we are all responsible for ourselves and our offspring?

We can blame the schools for enabling too many of us to shirk or abdicate our parental responsibilities. We've for too long allowed those we perceive as powerful to control our destinies. When will we control our own?

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Would skepticism, ridicule, and fear of change hinder this solution before it could even begin? The question may not be if Superman exists. The real question may be:

Are we ready to believe if Superman arrives?

Only if we have enough kryptonite to control him.

Great change is only possible when we strive to challenge the impossible.

What if Superman does exist?

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What if there was a single person who came forward and declared that they could fix the whole educational system? What if that solution did not require billions of dollars, massive resources, or the adoption of any new legislation? How would we welcome this person? How would we accept this individual who states that they can accomplish what powerful politicians, top administrators, and brilliant minds have been struggling to do for centuries?

Would skepticism, ridicule, and fear of change hinder this solution before it could even begin? The question may not be if Superman exists. The real question may be:

Are we ready to believe if Superman arrives?

Executive Director of Center for Teaching

Thank You!

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Your support of Edutopia is invaluable. It is one of the best resources for educators around today. Great job! Keep growning and learning with us.

Bob Ryshke
Center for Teaching

Fired ex-Geography/Journalism/English teacher, Houston, Texas

To Jenni

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Finding these child geniuses is really not all that difficult. look at the rebels, the malcontents, the children labeled as "ADD" or "ADHD" that teachers and doctors want to medicate. These children, boys in particular, often do not finish school not because they are incapable, but because they bore easily and the personality type is also prone to various addictions.

"Teaching" them emotional literacy is more of a matter of tricking them into it, of showing them that their extraordinary talents may not be worthwhile unless directed and disciplined. These children thrive on challenge, and to merely pat them on the back and tell them how wonderful they are is an invitation to underachieve, to take the path of least resistance, increasing the probability that addictions will overtake them.

Re-directing their narcissism, then, becomes a huge challenge, one that can only be undertaken by teachers willing to go beyond the standard lesson plan, to forsake it completely if these individuals are successful in subverting it.

International speaker on changing brains without the need for surgery

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A college degree is not a sign of a reform of the education system. Many of the inventors and entrepreneurs in the world did not have a college degree, including Steve Jobs, Andre Agassi, Julie Andrews, Andrew Carnegie among many others.

What we need is to find a way to keep the "genius" in a child through school. At four and five, children have wonderful ideas, thoughts, hopes and dreams. By the time they hit high school most fit well into the boxes designed for them, the rest are dropouts and not wanted by mainstream. I know, I teach some of them. They are highly intelligent, curious, and innovative. They question the "always been done that way rule" - well most rules actually... Sir Ken Robinson has some wonderful ideas about education. Look him up. Another to look up is Sugata Mitra on TED.com.

One school here in Australia that taught emotional intelligence throughout the curriculum discovered that children's language literacy and numeracy skills also improved beyond belief.

However, IF (and it's a big IF) schools and colleges are the answer, then "Student Success in College: creating conditions that matter" by George D Kuh et al is the way they should be. Student centred, collaborative, enriching and challenging. George has quite rightly stated that this kind of teaching WORKS! Otherwise our students (most of the bright ones at least) will fall by the wayside as they have always done.

Jenni Wright
http://www.emotionalintelligenceaus.com/

Sharing Best Practices

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Andalib -- In the spirit of sharing best practices, could you talk a little more about Brixton England and what they are doing?

Core standards- and coherence question

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Yes Mr. Lucas, hits the key issues facing education today. We have to move beyond the rhetoric into building and applying best practices in schools. In Brixton, England, their district level analysts sift through data to understand what works best for their students and to help teachers improve practice. I agree with him that we need to mine and replicate what is working here and abroad. I am excited about Edutopia's focus and mission and appreciate the energy here.

I am curious about what kinds of initiatives are occurring that may bring a greater national coherence to the work in schools. I think the core standards are a crucial step in developing our understanding about how to help students as a whole. Let's not forget that a national system of education seems to be fractured by our state focused policies- is it possible to for us to improve all schools in such a state.

Great essay! I have been

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Great essay! I have been teaching 20 years and would LOVE to use more technology. I walked into a different school this year to find that SIX workbooks had been ordered for my 1st grade class. I am expected to use them. Our computer lab is out of commission for 9 weeks of the year for computerized testing. There is very little in-district tech training and we are a remote district. Older eachers with experience are not given any new trainings even though they are in the best position to utilize new ideas, know what works, what needs to be taught and don't have to spend as much time wading through the curriculum demands as new teachers. A mandatory mentoring program within districts would benefit all.

Thank you George Lucas!

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Yes, the debate is important, but generating real solutions in the classrooom is more important. We need to share successes not deficits in education in order for our students to create a more collaborative educational environment, instead of the environment that has become polarized by the advent of charter schools.
The charter schools paint a bleak picture of public schools. It is not because teachers do not work hard. There are many barriers. The economic barriers become more pronounced as the charters take the money from the District and fail to return it when they send the students back to the public school. Yes, students are returned to the public schools, right around state testing time. Students who are behaviour problems are also returned, but the money per pupil is not. Is this fact mentioned in the movie "Waiting for Superman"? It is a real shame that the public is not informed of the financial practices these publically funded, privately run schools engage in, in the name of student achievement.

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