A new contest is being sponsored by Steve Jobs widow, Laurene Powell Jobs — called the Super School Project. She and her philanthropic organization are crowdsourcing a contest to reinvent high school — not just improve it, not just enhance it, but totally re-invent it. And this contest has been opened up to the public at large — no experience or background in education required.
So why does her group feel that the public can provide any input into a reinvention of high school? Perhaps it is simply the reason that we all attended high school, and we all have our good memories and our bad ones. So who better to critique the school experience than all of us “customers” of education. But there’s also the nauseating fact that after years and years of research and reform efforts, there has been little measurable improvement. We still have a drop-out problem, we have large numbers of students graduating but not prepared for post-secondary education, and we have many students tired, stressed and bored (as one article claimed).
The high school experience has been “frozen in time, not changed for two hundred years” as the contest notes, even as our modern times have encountered monumental changes. I know I have been frustrated by this fact. I wrote a book that considers these problems. But after contemplating the opinions of those out there, relating to the need for reform, I believe they seem to fall into two camps. There are the preservationists, or traditionalists — i.e. Diane Ravitch — who seem to think that schools can be great with just more funding and support. No changes necessary. And then there are the pro-reformers and charter school advocates — i.e. Campbell Brown. These people would really like to take a load of dynamite to the entire brick-and-mortar institution, leveling it to the ground.
I think that for most people, myself included, we need to take a middle ground. You can still learn great things in school, and colleges and the workplace require this knowledge. But increasingly, lectures, textbooks, and tests are seeming a little more ill-fitted to todays’ high tech environment than there were in the past. This is especially true since you can find any knowledge you need on the Internet, and learn any skill you need through computer games, simulations and YouTube videos.
So how do we modernize high school? How can we make it more appealing, more universally beneficial to all students — not just advantaged ones. And how can we prepare students for the kinds of technologically rich jobs to which they will be increasingly facing? Maybe it will take 300 millions citizens to find the answer. It won’t be easy. But then again, you can read my book: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781475805857 . Maybe it can yield some of the answers.