Death Valley Isn’t Really Dead

I started watching the talk by David Christian because I was intrigued by the title, The history of our world in 18 minutes.  I did watch the whole thing but found my mind wandering until he got to the part about his grandson.  Next I watched Dan Meyer’s talk, Math class needs a makeover.  This one was definitely more my speed and both entertaining and informative.  How lucky his high school math students are to have him in the classroom.  Logan LaPlante’s TED Talk recommended on the ED 554 blog by Stella8 was also good.

But, by far my favorite was Sir Ken Robinson’s How to escape education’s death valley.  Again, I chose it for the title, and what a wise choice it was.  When I saw it was more than 19 minutes I groaned because I had already been through more than a half hour of sitting and listening.  When he began speaking…another Brit, really?!  Then I found myself  all lol and rotfl.   Sir Ken used humor to tackle a hard problem…the education system in America.  He begins by addressing NCLB and how it rewards conformity whereas our students are naturally different and diverse.  “Differentiation”  is a term tossed around ad nauseum in college curriculum and classrooms, but how do we do that in a system of conformity and compliance?

Sir Ken said some schools, teachers, and students are succeeding IN SPITE of the educational system not BECAUSE OF it.   He compared American schools with Finnish schools.  In Finland, they have no dropout rate.  In America, if we cut our dropout rate in half we would add more than $1 trillion dollars to the economy.  Sir Ken says, in Finland (1) the teaching and learning is individualized, (2) a high status is given to the teaching profession, and (3) responsibility is left to the school level to get the job of learning done.  Sounds pretty good, right?  In America, it’s our ALTERNATIVE high schools that personalize the learning, give strong support for teachers, have close ties with the community, and broaden the curriculum outside of school hours.  So, why do we consider this the alternative and not the norm?

Well, Sir Ken, you have made me a fan for life.  Next one I will listen to, on Logan LaPlante’s recommendation…Schools kill creativity!

Stay tuned…