The American Experience as Active Education

Advancing Education

The hope that we will be successful continues to drive our country forward. From the first voyages to our country to the voyages made by immigrants today, hope drives us to ask how we can make a new life and prosper in the United States. Over the lifetimes of each of our countrymen and women, we strive to achieve that hope through good education, hard work and profit that will sustain our comfort. The role of education as a tool for advancement is recognized as so valuable that the entire nation is required to go to school.

Academic and Emotional Equity

The models for delivering education has evolved from a one-room schoolhouse to a large factory model and many students have succeeded in getting a good education. But these factory model schools also need updating because their effectiveness across all students from all backgrounds has withered. The decay of our models for schooling is felt most keenly in disadvantaged populations but also in the wealthiest school districts where academic schooling looks fine but the social/emotional schooling results in uneven student outcomes.

Read the Book, Repeat It

The need for new models of education are quite clear when you consider the model for learning is so out of date. Sitting in classrooms, reading books, repeating what is in those books and talking about it is like batch processing donuts. Some get cream, some are glazed, but all are baked the same way. The real need pressing our country to re-think how we educate, how we assess that learning and how we hold people accountable for learning, educating and managing the schools we run, is that the model for learning has changed. We need to help students do more than repeat what they have read.

Need for New Learning

If you think about how many schools define learning for each student—in classrooms with lots of other students—the type of learning could devolve into passive students, teachers talk and ask questions, one student at a time responds, and the comments are only about the textbook, not about what you think, the problem with the old definition becomes clear. And not all schools run factory-models but many of them are just dressed up reviews of group learning. A new definition would highlight how students respond better when the learning is personal, engaging, active and experiential.

Active Education

If we want to respond to current work place skill sets valued by companies, we need to invent new models for education that educate, or draw out of students, personal creativity, group work, and product delivery. It would be foolish to mandate creativity curriculum. It would be much more productive to re-design school environments that supported student learning about how to play well with others and how to define the curriculums they need to learn. Really tangible learning might include how to apply learning to jury instructions, tax preparation, learning about creativity through artistic engagement, learning about others by interviewing  and how to use observation to identify and solve problems. The new American experience needs to be active education, continuous learning and achieving hopeful success.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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