School is not like you remember it. The people, the resources, the access to information, and the revisioning of purpose has radically shifted how, where, when, and what we learn. Education as a concept has not just adapted to recent changes, it has evolved into an entirely new entity.
‘Common Education’, one that is provided by governments for their citizens, is an institution that is little more than a century and a half old. It was designed primarily to serve the needs of the economic machines of society: first socio-political, then industrial, and, since the early 2000s and the rise of the internet, the ‘Knowledge Economy’. (See Sir Ken Robinson’s TEDTalk at the end of this post)
Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Citizenship, to name a few, have long been the hallmarks of ‘Classical Education’. ‘21st-century Education’ is rediscovering these atavistic qualities that were common in Ancient Greece, illuminated during the Enlightenment, and buried by the Industrial Revolution. Current practices attempt to infuse Digital, Social, and Ecological Literacy into time-tried and true classical methods that were crafted to instruct educands in the virtues of truth, beauty, and morality.
Throughout the 20th century there were numerous influential pedagogues (Montessori, Piaget, Dewey, etc.) who questioned the standardized, memorized, authorized-only curricula promoted by common education. Thier uncommon approaches favoured learning that engages and inspires students, often times using practical experiences to link the theoretical content to the practical world around them.
We now have a wealth of cutting-edge research on multiple intelligences, educational innovation, neurobiology, and digital pedagogy that can supplement the work done by those whose primary concern was and is the education of a ‘good person’, as opposed to a good worker.
More than repeating the ‘What’ – dates, names, places, etc. – 21st-century educators are attuning students to the ‘Why” in an effort to help them develop a deeper understanding of motivations, conditions, and themes that can be broadly applied to accurately interpret the world around them.
Sea-to-Sky District School Board is to be commended on their well-planned Pathways to Learning Initiative document that scaffolds 21st-century educational theory for our community schools. Other local schools, Waldorf (2), Montessori (3), Coast Mountain Academy, and Quest University among them, have been founded on measured departures from the status quo in order to strive for a more student-centred, 21st-century approach.
Communities are built around, and strengthened by, their schools; so should schools be designed to nurture happy, healthy, and intelligent communities.
By fostering vibrant, innovative, and engaging educational opportunities for our communities, we will not only attract strong businesses and smart growth, but we will also be able to ensure that the curious students of today become our conscientious civic and entrepreneurial leaders of tomorrow.
W. Bradley Gooderham is the Founding Partner at Iterate Education Consultants and a long-time resident of the Sea-to-Sky corridor.