Tuesday, September 8, 2015

naturally curious and wired for learning

A great conversation was started the other day on twitter when @Sisyphus retweeted @agileschools quote, "This goal, learning to learn, should be the primary goal of education."

The world is filled with beautiful and dramatic questions. We are surrounded with opportunities to create things and have them matter. As humans we are naturally curious and wired for learning...

So why is the idea of learning to learn so popular?

Learning or discovery shows up in after school programs, in outside the classroom games, and in the archetype of the Hero's Journey (challenge, failure, success, return). Perhaps it's time to start supporting the idea of innate learning in the pursuit of discovery.

This twitter conversation reminded me that I had Will Richardson's new book, Freedom to Learn, on my kindle. I started reading it and couldn't put it down.

From the overview:

It's a great book. You should read it... because our education system isn't going away any time soon and you might be asking yourself, "What, if anything, changes?"

My favorite quotes from Freedom to Learn:
By and large, education is something still organized, controlled, and deliver by the institution; very little agency or autonomy is afforded to the learner over his or her own learning.
Here's the problem: increasingly, for those who have the benefit of technology devices and access to the internet, learning outside of school is more profound, relevant, and long lasting than learning inside the classroom. Connected learners of all ages have agency and autonomy that are stripped from them as they enter school. 
Learning is continual, effortless, unpremeditated, independent of rewards and punishment, a social activity, all about growth, and never forgotten.
It's arguable that we've always wanted knowers over learners; just look at our assessments.
... shouldn't the focus of our work now be to develop kids as learners instead of knowers? 
And then... toward the end of the book, there's a reality check of where we've let ourselves come to:
And, finally, current standardized assessments are a multibilliondollar industry - more than a quarter billion just for Pearson alone - that few in the business (or in the statehouse) have any real interest in changing.
The fact is that learning is leaving the building. 
What do you have the courage to change? How committed are you to bringing those changes about?

"What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook." 
- Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Struggle for wisdom

“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.” 
― Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween the World and Me

I read Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I read it after seeing Mr. Coates on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart... so that was a while ago. It has been one of those books that I can't get out of my head... that haunts me still... that I can't quite wrap up.

I would love to hear if you've read it and what you think. How can we unravel this twisted knot we've created?

There is so much to talk about, and so much to listen about.

Between The World And Me is written as a letter to the author's 15 year-old son. It's a warning about racial injustice in America. Here is a sample of some passages I can't put down:

“The question is not whether Lincoln truly meant “government of the people” but what our country has, throughout its history, taken the political term “people” to actually mean.” 

“The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine.”  

“The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country’s criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority.” 

“That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free. The men who had left his body in the street like some awesome declaration of their inviolable power would never be punished. It was not my expectation that anyone would ever be punished. But you were young and still believed. You stayed up till 11 P.M. that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, “I’ve got to go,” and you went into your room, and I heard you crying. I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you.”  

“And still I urge you to struggle. Struggle for the memory of your ancestors. Struggle for wisdom. Struggle for the warmth of The Mecca. Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all.”  

What I've come to know as history, both past and current, is that black American citizens have been far more likely than white American citizens to die at the hands of the police. The phrase "Black Lives Matter" is not asserting that black lives are more precious than white lives. The declaration is underlining the fact that the lives of black citizens have been discounted and devalued. It's an indisputable, unpleasant  truth.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” 
- Andrew Boyd