You can’t repair education from the top down. The problems are at the root and we’ve got to start by cultivating a new kind of learner, one who can take control and who knows how to do this. Oh yes, and that it’s his/her responsibility as well.
We need to start with the early childhood set. Yes, we can offer some remedies to older children and it will serve them well, but let’s really get this right from the ground up. Even the world of traditional education knows all the research about how quality early childhood programs support significant gains for these children. We know all about the neural pathways being formed and the consolidation/formation of the child’s self in the first six years of life. What we don’t SEE in programs is much change as a result of knowing this. There’s a disconnect between what science knows and what education does (to paraphrase Daniel Pink, see Drive).
When we create early learning environments for these little ones we end up creating small versions of what we offer older children. It’s as if the thinking was, “oh, they need some too?” and the result is just the same pap that is offered at elementary, middle and high schools: only smaller, to fit the little ones. It’s still overwhelmingly adult-directed, adult-organized, and not allowing for real thought to develop in the children. How can we talk about education if we’re not cultivating thought?
We need a revolution. We need to seriously rethink what we are offering and come up with something that is based on who children are at different stages in their development, not just the “same ol’ ” that’s been kicking around for 150 years, “just because”.