Through the miracles of technology and the great work of The Martin Institute, we were all able to share in both the content and video of some of their wildly successful Summer Conference over the last two days. As I watched the video of the panel of four outstanding educators, John Hunter, Sandy Dawes, Bo Adams, and Clif Mims, one common thread stood out, echoed by reports from the sessions: the fundamental relationship between teachers, students, and knowledge is undergoing existential change.
From the time when Socrates stood on the steps in front of his students, to the present sunset of the Industrial-age model, this relationship has been almost completely one-way. The future of education is vastly more balanced and multilateral, where students and teachers are both creators and consumers of knowledge; where both are learners; where knowledge is the fluid of the learning pond, the dynamic environment in which learners live, not a life-giving elixir to be doled out of a bucket and sipped from a cup. I think this is what Bo meant when he talked about school needing to “be life” not something walled off from life. For learners, knowledge and the passion to pursue it are mediums of existence, rich substrates of growth, not a course of pills to be swallowed.
This paradigm will threaten as much as it will enrich. Good. It will be messy and uncomfortable and unpredictable. Good. It will hard to score on a card. Good. It will be wildly more productive as student learners, in their sheer numbers and creativity that John shows us in the daily synthesis of his World Peace Game, jet around in the pond at rates that we have never allowed before. And all of that, as Bo said, looks a whole lot more like the life for which we are preparing them, than do the rows and columns of desks, the rigid directions, the formulaic dictation, the pre-loaded questions, that still pollute the pond.
Tomorrow, another follow-up from this panel discussion: the courage to get us there.