Education and educational theory interests me, so I occasionally read books on school, learning, psychology, curriculum design, and homeschooling. When I saw a short TED ebook called Why School?, I bought it straight away.
The author, Will Richardson, seems to have a good enough to background me to muse on about school, and sell a book about it. He taught school for years and has two teens. I think he was pegged by TED because he’s been blogging since 2001, has a bunch of followers, and incorporated the Web and technology into his classroom very early on.
Mr. Richardson talks about stuff that I consider standard fare in educational change books these days. I’ve heard it before. This “stuff” is probably considered revolutionary and “crazy” by people who aren’t up to date on these modern approaches. He presents his argument in a logical way that flows well. He did well. I give him 4.5 stars out of 5.
Schools haven’t kept up with the world. Schools were designed to make educated-enough factory workers, but we don't need to make educated-enough factory workers because we don't have factory work jobs. Those jobs left the country and aren't coming back. We need creative thinkers. People into educational reform typically fall into two camps: better and different.
The doing things better people believe that we should do what we have been doing, but do it better.
The different people want a whole new mindset. We live in a world of knowledge abundance. What's the value of knowing a bunch of trivial details when anyone can Google those factoids on their smartphone? This is also why tests that ask detail questions (anything that can be answered via Google) are silly. We don’t need that trivia. We can look it up.
What we need to be able to do is useful and creative things with the factoids we look up.
So, teachers don’t need to lecture and spit out information. Teachers don't need to deliver information. Teachers need to facilitate kids’ learning. Teachers need to help kids discover, and to do this, teachers need to be learners first and teachers second.
Teachers need to help kids discover whatever it is they need to become literate, by the modern definition. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has a new definition of literacy. Read this definition. Most people are illiterate.
Why School? is a good read. If you don’t know much about this new model of education, it’s a great beginning. If you do know a bit about this model, it’s probably not worth our time, unless you want to read it just to feel validated.