Education Trends

Student Calls for a Learning Revolution

"I am not a number."
May 4, 2012

Last year, industrial designer Dean Benstead unveiled the 02 Pursuit -- a prototype for a motorcycle ruled not by gas or electricity, but by compressed air. Just last month, Google announced to the public its secret initiative, Project Glass, the company's first venture into wearable computing.

And yet, in the world of education, the "next big thing" is merit pay for teachers and boosting test scores. Do our policymakers not understand that the world is going through a revolution in the way we live, interact and learn?

Our education system is stuck in paralysis. We have tried doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of a different result. This is insanity at its finest. The way we educate is based on the tenets of the Industrial Revolution -- conformity and standardization.

For instance, creativity is virtually extinguished as a child goes through his or her schooling. In their 1998 book Breakpoint and Beyond, George Land and Beth Jarman refer to a study in which 1,500 kindergartners between three and five years old were given a divergent thinking test. Divergent thinking tests don't measure creativity, but rather one's propensity for creativity. The test asks questions such as "How many ways could you use this paperclip?" or "How many ways could you improve this toy fire truck?" -- questions designed to encourage creative thought rather than elicit right-or-wrong answers. Ninety-eight percent of kindergarteners tested at genius level. The kids were tested every few years. By the end of post-secondary education, only two percent of students tested at genius level.

So, if you're trying to produce compliant, dead-brained, formulaic workers, our system is doing exactly what it was designed for. (I should add "grade-obsessed" to that cadre of properties.) But in a society where innovation is simply everything, it is a cultural and moral failure to encourage this compliance.

Education Is Life

That's why I am starting a movement, or what Seth Godin might call "a tribe." The Learning Revolution is a tribe of change-makers and trailblazers united in a cause to transform our schools. We are connected through answering this simple yet powerful question: How can we make school the best hours of a kid's day?

Look at Brightworks, a K-12 independent school in San Francisco. No grades. No tests. No transcripts. The curriculum is based on the "Brightworks Arc" -- exploration, expression and exposition. If we put these principles on the high pedestal, only then will John Dewey's saying, "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself," come to fruition.

Indeed, education is undergoing a renaissance. Learners -- not institutions -- are creating a bottom-up change. From abolishing the SAT to calling for project-based learning in the classroom, we're fighting for significant changes. We don't deserve to be pelted with Scantrons and #2 pencils. We are not a bunch of numbers. We are living, breathing, creative human beings.

As Scott Belsky put it, "Ideas are worthless if you can't make them happen." We have to cultivate -- holistically and whole-heartedly -- our powers of imagination and creativity within a different paradigm of human purpose. Michelangelo once said, "The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." For all our futures, as Sir Ken Robinson writes, we need to aim high.

The Learning Revolution movement is about everyone. We are students. We are educators. We are parents. We are administrators. We are entrepreneurs. We are concerned citizens. We are mad as hell. The last thing you can do is ignore us.

No reforms. A revolution. Bring it on!