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Controversial US Secretary of Education Bets DeVos is starting a “ReThink School tour” to highlight innovative ways educators are meeting the needs of students in K-12 and higher education. From PSA’s perspective, this is a worthwhile undertaking, as it is generally true education in the US has been slow to adopt new forms and ways of learning that hold great promise to improve learning outcomes.

“It’s time to rethink school,” DeVos said to students at the Woods Learning Center in Casper, Wyoming, Tuesday morning, where she began the weeklong tour.

 

“For far too many kids, this year’s first day back to school looks and feels a lot like last year’s first day back to school,” she said. “And the year before that. And the generation before that. And the generation before that.”

 

She continued: “Most students are starting a new school year that is all too familiar – desks lined up in rows, their teacher standing in front of the room framed by a blackboard. They dive into a curriculum written for the average student. They follow the same schedule, the same routine – just waiting to be saved by the bell.”

“It’s a mundane malaise that dampens dreams, dims horizons and denies futures,” she said.

 

It’s necessary to note the message is a valuable one, without necessarily agreeing with the overall policies of the messenger. When it comes to what’s best for the student’s interests, it’s hard to find any political support that doesn’t come with partisan POV baggage attached, whether left or right. Parents are poorly organized to support what’s in the best interests of their children, which is how education in the US got to this point in the first place, most likely. 

Presently there appear to be few options for parents desiring alternative learning options, other than voting with their feet, as it were. The educational establishment needs to be dramatically better at their task, or those who advocate tearing it all down will continue to gain adherents. It is unclear, at this time, that the educational establishment will reform itself; if not, who will?

The challenge there is how to avoid dismantling the ideals of public education where every student has equal opportunities to learn, despite class, race and other differences. Providing the common ground for citizenship, where children can learn the essential foundation of democracy, is part of the ideals for which public education was established.  IOW, children who spend their educational lives together, learn that “we are all in this together”. That’s the essential belief, that makes democracy viable.

There is also the.very real truth, that a country that wastes the minds of large portions of their society, will rue the day in many ways, as we reap what we sow.

The true “school of the 21st century” HAS TO look dramatically different than the forms we are so used to that were established in the early 20th century, and prior. We don’t even know what a “school building” will look like…with mobile learning tool access, it’s unlikely to be a sort of “one place to put all the kids during the day”.

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