For the past two years I’ve been writing a book – along with about two hundred others – on what is now a favorite topic for really concerned people – EDUCATION! My title is Pegasus: A Life Force with Wings in Education, Pegasus is my muse – my lightning encouragement to wake up and fly, and it is a call to action. The question I am exploring is: – how do WE – yes WE THE HALF ASLEEP PEOPLE –change things for the better? What do we need to do to become responsible citizens and create opportunities for the pursuit of real purpose for living?
Perhaps we can start by asking questions like: What are the most important things to learn in life? At school? What do we need to know to survive? For happiness? To get a job we like? To help each other etc.? In fact two or three colleagues and I have been asking these questions, and many more, to teachers, parents, administrators, students and lay persons of every profession, and now to you, to anyone who is interested. In the process we have heard such wisdom, such courage in the voices and actions of people who are really trying to impart values and solicit the curiosity and creative energies of our children. I want to acknowledge and encourage them, and you, in my book.
I have come to realize that there or three pressing areas we need to consider in contemplating the future of education:
What would Thomas Jefferson have thought about a Federal government’s role in enforcing so much “drill and kill” testing in our children that both teachers and pupils become tempted to cheat – teachers to ensure their own jobs by giving students high enough grades so they can pass the test whether they understand the material or not and students to gain enough good grades to graduate from high school?
In fact, do our children’s schools give them time or encouragement to muse, to go to different sources to explore their interests – to books, or people, or institutions? Does it give them time to discuss it with classmates, or mentors, or teachers?
When is there free time – to dream, to muse, to do nothing, to listen to bird songs, or to lie face down in a meadow to smell the earth or sweet scent of mown hay? To read about earthworms or windmills, dinosaurs or astronauts or pearl-divers, or to climb a mountain, plant a garden, run in a marathon, gallop in horseback, even skateboard in the park? To perform in a SLAM poetry contest?
Our students education is being limited by what legislators and administrators have prioritized in our school system and we are missing great opportunities to educate young people for the 21st century.
Most of us recognize that our children are being educated for a different kind of world. What kind of new world? What kind of tools are they using? The most ubiquitous new tools for progress in American education, which are in most children’s hands, are computers and cell phones. These allow us to see, to absorb a great deal of facts about what is happening around the world. It is changing our perception of what we need to learn as well as what we are learning. How? We can Google almost any answer to any immediate question we ask. While having such information at our finger-tips is amazing, it is only part of the solution. Google can’t muse about the problem, think about the pros and cons, understand why you need to look at it from many directions, and then decide what needs to be done.
Another concern about computers is – how much time do our children spend at school with the computer on skills, how much time later on at home on FACEBOOK or Twitter? When do they ever get to run, or hike, or high jump? On their way to the bus? To the car? To the airplane? How much time is there to paint, or dance, or perform, to learn about car mechanics, or farming, nursing, or business – as apprentices?
We need to be conscious of how we use technology to make it a valuable tool for educating our children without letting it define our children’s education.
Some people wonder why we are shifting money and allegiance to charter and private schools and to vouchers instead of working hard to help our public schools? The question is why isn’t there enough money for schools to afford arts, or sports, or vocational courses – or in fact, civics or ethics or natural history? The fact that most arts have been dropped from curriculum, most sports and field trips too, and often recess is worrisome. There is no more money to afford a band, or materials used for arts, or soccer balls, or hockey sticks, or bussed adventure field trips. Again WHY?
That question is for us, yes, again for us, as We The People, to ask our legislators, our state or federal representatives, the congress, and school education committees: why is there money for new school buildings (often disguised as fortresses) but not for maintenance of those buildings? Why is there money allowed for new computers, but none for computer upkeep or for training of parents to use the computers to help their children with homework? Why is there millions spent for “bubble” tests which are supposed to measure accountability in teaching and students and none for the time and freedom for children to actually learn what they need in an atmosphere of trust, with properly trained teachers?
How we spend our money and where we spend our money is important, and needs our attention if we are to create an education system that will prepare our children for a bright future.
In my book I am trying to explore these problems and possible solutions through the hearts and voices of those we have interviewed in our immediate community. We would like to extend this courtesy to you, to introduce your voice with your name or anonymously if you have an encouraging story or potential answer to a given question. I hope we can communicate.
Specific questions I would love to hear your answers to are:
What do you think are the biggest issues in schools today?
What would you like to have children experience in school?
What do you think is the one change that would make the biggest difference for students?
Let me know your answers in the comments below!