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A Learning Revolution?

Each summer Saint David's faculty are asked to read and reflect upon a book that explores one of the themes being developed at the school.  Recently, Gardner's Five Minds for the Future and Hallowell's Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, and David Perkins' Smart Schools: From Training Memories to Educating Minds have served as summer reads.  This summer's reading assignment was not a book; instead “summer reading” was a “summer watching.”  The assignment aimed to explore one of our ongoing curricular sub themes: “Education for a New Era.”  

For the past several years at Saint David's, as one component of our major Curriculum Initiative, we have been critically examining potential implications of the changing socio-economic-cultural landscape at the dawn of this new century.  What may need to change within our curriculum to meet the demands of a new era? What should not? have been two of our essential questions.

Ken Robinson is an internationally known speaker and thinker who comments regularly on the state of education, among other things.  In his most recent talk, given at TED in February 2010, Robinson presents some provocative ideas on this very topic.  Faculty were asked to watch and critique/react to the 18 minute talk.  Within their response, whether they agreed with Robinson's underlying premise, or not, faculty were asked to explore potential implications for our Saint David's School mission and program moving forward?

Responses were incredibly telling.  We are a school in possession of a mission that is, clearly, fluid, flexible, and strong--flexible enough to respond to changing times, yet strong enough to stand the test of time.  It was clear from the faculty's responses that, true to form, we accept the challenges ahead with a healthy dose of historical perspective and of current realities.  There was an obvious respect for Robinson's "theory" and his educated speculation; but it was clearly balanced with a healthy degree of pragmatism too.  

What is both fascinating and alarming is that we are, as a nation, not necessarily as a school, moving in the opposite direction.  Pressure mounts.  In a recent Newsweek article entitled The Creativity Crisis, the authors cite work by an Indiana University researcher on a recent visit to China where he was asked by the faculty of a major Chinese university to identify trends in American education.  In answering, he described America's focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing.  The Chinese then responded: ‘You’re racing toward our old model. But we’re racing toward your model, as fast as we can.”

More on this, and the faculty's reactions, to come in the weeks ahead ...

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