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George Lucas Dedicates Majority of His Wealth to Improving Education

| Edutopia

Editor's Note: Our founder and chairman George Lucas has announced his commitment to donate at least half his wealth to improving education. In his pledge, George calls out for the importance of innovation and reform to our schools as the "key to the survival of the human race." Below, we have reprinted the entirety of George's inspiring pledge and his commitment to the values embraced by the Edutopia community.

Storytellers are teachers and communicators who speak a universal language. That was Homer's primary role, and both Plato and Aristotle used narratives and dialogues as a means of educating. Good storytelling is based on truths and insights, and a good storyteller is ultimately a teacher -- using the arts as a means of making education emotionally meaningful. These are all tools at our educational system's disposal, but too often we aren't making use of them.

When I was in high school, I felt like I was in a vacuum, biding time. I was curious, but bored. It was not an atmosphere conducive to learning. I was fortunate that I found my path and my language.

It's scary to think of our education system as little better than an assembly line with producing diplomas as its only goal. Once I had the means to effect change in this arena, it became my passion to do so -- to promote active, life-long learning. I believe in the artisan school of learning, through apprenticeships and Aristotelian questions and discussion. This level of engagement dates back to the beginning of human life, but it's still the best way of doing things. There have to be universal standards particularly in education -- and while it seems unwieldy, there is a willingness among educators to share their best practices.

Ultimately, that is why I created Edutopia and The George Lucas Educational Foundation. The focus of GLEF has been to share educational innovations -- cooperative and project learning, mentorship, parental involvement, and technological advances. This all comes straight from those on the front lines, from teachers who are putting these methods into practice. We are the facilitators. Our goal has been to showcase bold successes and inspire others to further increase the appetite for education. Our hope is that administrators, teachers, and parents will see the power of these collective efforts and join the fight for wider reforms.

But reform is just the beginning. We need to build new foundations, fostering independent thought and a desire to keep learning. Our students need to come away with more than just survival skills, and more than just what is required to complete the program. We need to promote critical thinking and emotional intelligence. We need to focus on building an education system that promotes different types of learning, different types of development, and different types of assessment. We have an opportunity and an obligation to prepare our children for the real world, for dealing with others in practical, project-based environments. It's about working together and building character -- being compassionate, empathetic, and civil as a means to a greater end.

As technology changes, so do students. So should classrooms, and so should our methods of teaching. In a few short years, connectivity has gone from a technological novelty to a daily necessity. It's how our culture communicates, and our children are at the forefront of its use. Understanding those tools and how to integrate them into learning -- is an integral step in defining our future.

My pledge is to the process; as long as I have the resources at my disposal, I will seek to raise the bar for future generations of students of all ages.

I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education. It is the key to the survival of the human race. We have to plan for our collective future -- and the first step begins with the social, emotional, and intellectual tools we provide to our children. As humans, our greatest tool for survival is our ability to think and to adapt - as educators, storytellers, and communicators our responsibility is to continue to do so.

-- George Lucas, Edutopia Founder and Chairman

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President at Smart Science Education Inc.

Algebra and Photosynthesis

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There's nothing wrong with learning about photosynthesis as long as it's in the right context: not memorizing but inquiring and discovering. Such an approach helps people learn to think.

There's nothing wrong with learning the basics of algebra as long as the learning process opens up new ideas and ways of thinking.

The real problem with how teaching occurs is simple. Too many students learn by memorizing, often a pattern along with a matching solution. Some teachers actually teach that way explicitly and purposely.

Just about any subject can be taught by rote or as a real learning experience. The former is much easier than the latter and more quickly results in short-term testing success.

My hat is off to those teachers who buck this current trend.

With 2 children of my own,

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With 2 children of my own, and being what most would consider a hi achiever I too have been looking at our educational system and thinking to myself, YUCK. All the CORE lessons I learned in life that helped me become successful were not taught to me in school, and I feel sorry for people who aren't given the opportunity to develope to their full potential with outside coaching or "apprentiships". I wish there was a system that was 100% dedicated to looking at every child as a unique person, with unique gifts that with help can be turned into amazing talents, intead of just learning algebra or the formula to photosynthesis.

Director/Parent/Volunteer

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I think when you're trying to solve educational issues, it's important to get local. Check out District 205 Foundation on Facebook, which operates to support local public education best practices in Elmhurst, IL. We look for innovation, creativity and broad impact with the grants we fund. We also look for $$ to fund with!! Thanks.

Elementary Teacher

Now I Know

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Now I know on whom Yoda was based. Let no one say George Lucas never walked the walk.

Cheers George Lucas!

President at Smart Science Education Inc.

Me Too, but Not as Much, Yet a Much Bigger Fraction

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A dozen years ago, I had a home and a large bank account. Today, I have neither because I dedicated my life and fortune to paradigm-changing innovation in education. We (my partners and I) are just beginning to be recognized now. See the YouTube videos on our web site at www.smartscience.net. A NYC school put us on their web site (http://www.leaders6-12.org/).

For the last six years, my partner (and wife, and world-class software developer, and lawyer, and tax expert) and I have taken absolutely no salary from our business and have no other job.

Our goal of changing science education and providing inexpensive authentic science experience to all students is coming true. Eight state online schools use our cloud-based system. We were cloud computing pioneers in 1999. The prestigious Center for Talented Youth uses our system. So do numerous schools in New York City.

Why do I bother to write this information here? Because I have tried in vain for ten years to get the attention of organizations such as GLEF. Because we're a subchapter C corporation, GLEF, Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, et al. are completely uninterested in what we're doing.

Here's an example of what our dedication to using technology for better science education has done. A school in New York has a 60% poverty rate. Despite having a truly blue ribbon science faculty (several with PhDs), their Regents science pass rate stalled at 50%. The science chair there decided to assign our authentic online science labs with prerecorded real experiments as homework. Within 12 months the pass rate rocketed up 32% (16 points) to 66%. Students were so engaged in the labs that they did extra, unassigned labs.

Tell me George, how does a person without even a million dollars, let alone millions, but with a great idea get ahead in the education marketplace? Why is there no path for helping our education entrepreneurs? Why are those who are funding education initiatives all from non-education businesses and not helping those who are?

What you, Eli Broad, Bill Gates, and others are doing is wonderful and valuable. Consider how much more effective your investment might be if you spent your money helping education entrepreneurs and innovators take their ideas to reality and try them out in schools without requiring them to empty their bank accounts and borrow from friends first.

How many education entrepreneurs gave up early because of the enormous difficulties of working in this marketplace? How many great ideas have we lost?

I gave up a lot more than half of my wealth. Of course, there's the possibility that I'll get it back someday. If so, I can invest even more in improving education!

instructional technology, user experience, design

Well said Kristen - my

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Well said Kristen - my thoughts exactly. thank you Mr. Lucas.

Quote:

My Dear Mr. Lucas, I have lined up my Star Wars action figures in order to honor you with a 21 light saber salute! In an age where personal greed and the flaunting of wealth are considered admirable it is truly inspiring to see a person of talent, imagination and creativity using his hard earned money to better the intellectual lives of children. How refreshing it would be if learning could be made fun again! Children could once again learn to play a musical instrument or paint a picture instead of just working to earn the "proficient" label because they passed the latest in a never ending round of standardized tests. We could be creating a generation of thinkers and achievers who could use their minds to create, entertain, enlighten or explore their world in order to make it a better place for all of us. We could create schools where children could explore ALL subjects, not just the ones that the bureaucracy has placed at the top of the list (at least THIS year) in order to find their true callings. We could attract more teachers who are passionate, knowledgeable and dare I say it, unconventional in their methods. Teachers who can make learning exciting again. We are living in a modern world full of technological innovations, yet most schools are still tied to an educational model that has changed little from the Middle Ages. Will money solve everything? Maybe not. But I would sure rather read that Mr. Lucas is spending his on trying to find a better way to do what we do than face another story about million dollar Sweet 16 parties, 800 dollar Manolo's and mink lined shower curtains. Bravo Mr. Lucas, Bravo!!!

instructional technology, user experience, design

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I was going to write something but Kristen has said it for me. Thank you Kristen and Mr. Lucas.

peter bratti

[quote]My Dear Mr. Lucas, I have lined up my Star Wars action figures in order to honor you with a 21 light saber salute! In an age where personal greed and the flaunting of wealth are considered admirable it is truly inspiring to see a person of talent, imagination and creativity using his hard earned money to better the intellectual lives of children. How refreshing it would be if learning could be made fun again! Children could once again learn to play a musical instrument or paint a picture instead of just working to earn the "proficient" label because they passed the latest in a never ending round of standardized tests. We could be creating a generation of thinkers and achievers who could use their minds to create, entertain, enlighten or explore their world in order to make it a better place for all of us. We could create schools where children could explore ALL subjects, not just the ones that the bureaucracy has placed at the top of the list (at least THIS year) in order to find their true callings. We could attract more teachers who are passionate, knowledgeable and dare I say it, unconventional in their methods. Teachers who can make learning exciting again. We are living in a modern world full of technological innovations, yet most schools are still tied to an educational model that has changed little from the Middle Ages. Will money solve everything? Maybe not. But I would sure rather read that Mr. Lucas is spending his on trying to find a better way to do what we do than face another story about million dollar Sweet 16 parties, 800 dollar Manolo's and mink lined shower curtains. Bravo Mr. Lucas, Bravo!!![/quote]

Instructional Designer

Sydney, Australia

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Quite an inspiring call to action! Hooray! Bring on the new era!

Teacher Librarian in a public high school in Colorado

Thank You!

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Thank You from Colorado! You are an angel!

Everyone Needs to be Part of the Solution

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I was so excited by this announcement I put a link to from my ScienceGuy Org Facebook page immediately, this is fantastic news. But just as much as money is needed, I think everyone has to be part of the solution to improving education. Parents need to become more active in their children's education, teachers need to keep upgrading their skills, and everyone interested in a better future needs to volunteer where they can in the educational process.

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