Meaningful innovation will require substitution

Some described as tonight leaders make the case that education is broken and new models are needed. From my perspective, if they want to take this position they should expand their view of what education actually involves. Focusing on the existing curriculum and instructional/learning tactics are likely far too narrow. Reality requires that one not just argue what is wrong and what should be added, but what the additions should replace. Replacement is the difficult challenge. Do you drop world history, calculus, or the final course in language arts? Even if you propose that changes should exist within courses you must make similar decisions. Do you eliminate the focus on classic literature or persuasive writing?

In the promotion of change, there are some sacred cows that are seldom, if ever, considered. Examine the following list. I would argue that each has strong advocates, but all involve considerable allocation of time and resources.

  • Athletics,
  • Music and creative arts,
  • Advanced placement courses,
  • and work.

These activities do develop skills, most allow or require individual choice, but most also require considerable time and most resources taken from the school budget. I don’t see administrators having the fortitude to suggest that any of these opportunities is less important than say an entrepreneurship course. If you need the resources and time within the curriculum for new courses – drop AP courses. Promote this to parents by arguing that saving money on college is less important than having the opportunity to find personal interests before getting there. Suggest that unless finances are really a basic problem for families, allowing adolescents to work in order to afford a car or the newest athletics shoes is less important to developing life skills within a safe and supportive environment.

Innovation is partly about examining the values within education, but also the values within communities and families. I have read many recommendations suggesting what are radical departures from traditional education models, but I have yet to read any administrator promote any of the changes I have suggested be considered.

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