Our education system has been fundamental to our success as a nation,
but it has barely changed in 100 years. -- Bill Gates
Schools are caught in a time warp. They are still rooted to the simplistic basics necessary to turn out good factory workers. Billionaires bulldozing the system, convinced that the tools of the boardroom (boosting incentives, instituting new technologies, bringing in innovators) would transform education forever, have, for the most part, fumbled or failed.
A study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes found that 37 percent of charter schools produced results worse than public schools; only 17 percent performed significantly better. Michelle Rhee, who tried to revamp how schools were run and subjects were taught in Washington, D.C., but was later fired, had this to say: “The truth is that despite a handful of successful reforms, the state of American education is pitiful, and getting worse. Spending on schools has more than doubled in the last three decades, but the increased resources haven’t produced better results.”
Let’s dwell on the dismal a little longer.
- A five-year-study in Denver, Colorado, beginning in 1999 found a 65 percent flunk-out rate, thirty thousand illegal aliens speaking forty different languages, crowded classrooms, over-the-top violence, and 30 percent of teachers who quit vowed never to return.
- One-third of all our nation’s high school graduates lack the skills they need to either handle a job or live a healthy, productive life.
- Two-thirds of Wisconsin eighth-graders cannot read at their grade’s proficiency standard; yet Wisconsin receives more money to educate their students than any other state in the Midwest.
- Children as young as six are being arrested at school for excessive infractions and have a police record by the time they leave elementary school.
- In a news radio report on August 15, 2010, the United States was named the world leader in school dropouts (one in three quit). U.S. schools also rank 23 and 25 out of 30 in reading and math on the list of the world’s most developed nations.
- One-fourth of all U.S. school kids do not see anything wrong with cheating. They regularly photograph tests with their cell phones and text message answers. To them, this is sharing and helping, not cheating. They have a different sense of honesty—the group first—even if the action taken is wrong.
- For the first time in American history, the newer generations (Millennials and 9/11s) may be less educated than their parents (boomers were the best educated of all the generations), and are projected to earn less and die earlier than their parents. They are labeled the dumbest because they lack problem-solving skills and depend too much on digital “toys.” [The Dumbest Generation by Bauerlein, Mark]
Beyond dismal is the legacy of No Child Left Behind—the worst thing to have happened to U.S. schools in recent history. Teaching to tests totally ignores the fact that today’s students are not the people our educational system was designed to teach. Evolution’s “curveball” added yet another setback: where 80 percent of school curriculums are geared toward the verbal learner, 80 percent of the new kids are visual/spatial learners. Kids drop out in droves because they’re bored. [Upside-Down Brilliance by Linda Kreger Silverman]
The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina created an opportunity to scrap the former educational system in New Orleans. Administrators did, replacing it with a specific type of charter school system that uses Promethean ActivBoards (interactive whiteboards that engage students with vivid images, video, and audio). Test scores that were once among the lowest in the nation soared to the highest percentiles because of this, proving that poverty, homelessness, hunger, and even lack of parental help and parental illiteracy cannot and will not stop a child who is provided an environment where curiosity is encouraged; effort is praised; and the abilities to self-organize, question, and problem solve are taught.
If you haven’t seen the 2010 movie Waiting for Superman, access the website www.waitingforsuperman.com. It’s a powerful film about the need to change the school system. Good education for children cannot be deleted from tight budgets or thwarted by religious zealots without a country’s prosperity and very existence suffering. Because this is true, I’m going to tease you with some unique ideas that are already in use and achieving incredible results.
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- From kindergarten to senior high, the Kids Teaching Kids (KTK) program promotes the sharing potential of children when coupled with resources they can use. See www.intuition.org/ktk.pdf, or call Hollie Webster at (925) 254-8054; [email protected]
- Extending the school day through the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools dedicated to helping kids in underserved communities.
- “Teaching Naked,” an idea that originated at Southern Methodist University and is spreading, means no computers, no PowerPoints, no technology, and no lectures. Instead it utilizes innovative interactions, discussions, projects, debates, and creativity.
- Innovative school and classroom designs at Ordrup School, Charlottenlund, Denmark, including upholstered reading tubes, sunken “hot pot” circular seating areas for concentrated group work, colorful concentration booths, and other inventive spaces designed to accommodate diverse learning styles. For more information, look up the school at www.imagineschooldesign.org.
- As reported by futurist and life coach Annimac Consultants, elementary schools in Perth, Australia, made simple yet unique changes where children can talk quietly (this discourages mind-to-mind communication), rooms have movable walls so environments can be altered, classrooms are called neighborhoods and teachers are “guides.” Just doing this raised test scores and decreased dropout rate.
- By nurturing the inner life of children through myth, storytelling, and creativity, Rachael Kessler discovered that kids can embrace shadows and the depression they bring in healthy ways. Her book The Soul of Education offers in-depth ways to listen, speak, and interact in the classroom.
- Issac Newton, one of the greatest scientists of all time, was an alchemist and intuitive mystic. Shutting out intuitive ideas and responses or demeaning them turns creativity into mere exercise sans passion or feeling or truth. There are constructive ways to handle this.
- As learning potential steadily decreases in colleges and universities, three-year degrees are offered as an alternative. Exciting schools like Bainbridge Graduate Institute award an MBA in sustainable business. Community colleges are partnering with high schools to enable ambitious students to graduate from both at the same time. Schools for social change are now worldwide. For example, the Community and Individual Development Association (CIDA) in Johannesburg, South Africa, is a business school for the underprivileged that teaches entrepreneurship and considers every student an agent of change.
- Bill Strickland, a genius who sees the genius in everyone, discovered how to build successful schools in broken-down, dangerous communities and to inspire others to learn and excel. With the theme of “environment drives behavior,” his schools are filled with art, lunches are served as if in a fine restaurant, doors are never locked, and students are regularly praised and treated with respect. His schools defy all statistics of educational failure and prove the impossible on a daily basis. His book is Make the Impossible Possible: One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary.
- Sustainability Workshop of Philadelphia was the brainchild of Simon Hauger. His goal: teach students to change the world. He is doing this by giving high school students real problems with real tools to tackle them. Privately funded, the school is designed around three simple principles: put the work first (this drives curriculum knowledge, and skills), trust students to make decisions (make, explain, and justify decisions), and make the most out of failure (failure is not an option, it is a necessity). The Sustainability Workshop is solving real life problems while changing kids’ lives.26
What works, what could transform education itself, is to lay aside the act of teaching, per se, and offer instead a game of rotating responsibilities and tasks—a project called BeLonging. Based on the principles of Mereon, an integrated model of existence that provides a link between living and lifelike systems, BeLonging is more than a vision. It is an operational project that begins with educators as lifelong learners. This three-day course is for teachers and anyone else who works in schools. During this course, real issues are tackled straight on. This is followed by introducing teachers and parents to the classroom project “Learners Learning to Lead.” None of this impinges on the formal school curriculum.
Learning to cooperate and share responsibility for the social dimension of their learning environment is the student’s ongoing lesson in leading. As the learners have new experiences and see themselves, their peers, and their teachers from a new perspective, change happens quickly. Tested successfully in Mirano, Venice, Italy, pilot programs have since been initiated in North America and Switzerland. To find out more about BeLonging programs and the Mereon principles of existence, visit www.mereon.org and www.essenceillumined.com. A book about this new system of learning is in progress.
Today, people of color do the worst in school because of poor language and math skills. By 2040, half the U.S. population will be brown or black. We can no longer afford to wait. All kids deserve better. Education for all learners must be transformed . . . now!
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Bear & Co. (a division of Inner Traditions International).
©2012 by P. M. H. Atwater. http://www.innertraditions.com
Children of the Fifth World: A Guide to the Coming Changes in Human Consciousness
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About the Author
Dr. Atwater is an internationally known researcher of near-death experiences and a near death survivor, as well as a prayer chaplain, spiritual counselor, and visionary. She is the author of numerous books including: "Future Memory", "We Live Forever: The Real Truth About Death" and "Beyond the Indigo Children: The New Children and the Coming of the Fifth World". Visit her website at: www.pmhatwater.com