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Sam Chaltain

Sam Chaltain

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What's Your Declaration of Education?

Posted: 04/13/11 01:28 PM ET

Those pesky EduCon folks are at it again.

Earlier this year, I wrote about a small, networked, eclectic tribe of educators who attended a conference at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, and who, with great energy and determination, pledged their shared commitment to bring about a different type of public school system by agreeing to the following core values:

1. Our schools must be inquiry-driven, thoughtful and empowering for all members.
2. Our schools must be about co-creating -- together with our students -- the 21st Century Citizen.
3. Technology must serve pedagogy, not the other way around.
4. Technology must enable students to research, create, communicate and collaborate.
5. Learning can -- and must -- be networked.

For me, EduCon was a "Come to Jesus" moment -- a time when I found adults who shared my fidelity to a language of possibility that was solution-oriented, relationship-driven, and future-focused. Now I see that they/we are at it again, this time "to remind ourselves and our students that citizenship means asking questions, finding answers and standing up for what you believe in ... and that education must mean that too."

The vehicle for this lofty goal is something known as The Great American Teach-In and, if it works, the result will be that on May 10, thousands of classrooms, students, and schools will draft their own Declarations of Education.

The Teach-In website has useful resources for anyone who wants to structure a conversation that results in an actionable set of aspirational goals toward the creation of healthier, higher-functioning learning environments. And the conversations will all be framed by a core set of essential questions:

1. When and where do I learn best?
2. What does an ideal learning environment look like?
3. How closely do our current places of learning resemble our ideal learning environment?
4. What barriers to learning/growth exist within our current learning environments?
5. What will we do to make our current learning environments more perfect places to work and learn?

What I love about this idea is it assumes the best people to change the landscape of public education are those closest to the day-to-day workings of our nation's schools -- educators and students. After all, although there is much to dispirit us with the state of our school system, it does educators no good to assume these ills have merely been "imposed upon them," and that they have no choice but to keep hoping, as passive victims, that better days lie ahead.

As the great quantum physicist David Bohm once said, "Thought creates the world and then says, 'I didn't do it.'" So, too, is it with the current state of public education in America -- and all of us have a choice: remain complicit, and passive, in the acceptance of a system that denies us the ability to create truly transformational learning environments; or become active agents in solving our own most intractable problems -- and creating spaces for people to reflect on their ideal learning environments, and then think together about how to create those environments as soon as possible.

Sound like a good use of your time? Check out Declarationofeducation.com/ to learn more and get involved. We can do better - and it is up to us to make sure that we do so.

 
 
 

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