I think education is extremely important, but that the definition of education is changing as we speak. To me, getting an education is still the means of acquiring the knowledge to succeed and survive once you leave school and enter the "real world" with all the "big kids." Education, in countries less fortunate than the U.S, is a ticket up and out if you take advantage of it. Education can and should continue to be revolutionary.
Initially, I was interested in using technology to maximize our learning potential. This interest on maximizing learning in school evolved into thinking about an ideal school containing a mix of elements picked up from my past school experiences thus far. My ideal school would break out of the culture where teachers stand and lecture to a passive audience. It would feature problems and situations where subjects such as math and science are used in real life. In an ideal school, the growth mindset could act as a mission statement, and the school would not put such a large focus on grades and studying for the test. Simply by working towards this ideal school, I soon got interested in ed reform without realizing it.
There are lots of schools doing well, but since I was given the opportunity to be a part of one of these "good" schools, I wanted to spread these positive qualities to to all schools. In schools that aren't doing that well because their focus is on test scores and they don't value the individual needs of various students, I believe that making a curriculum more based in reality and shifting the large focus on grades to a greater focus on comprehension would help. Personally, I think that it's mainly a huge mindset shift that we need -- out with the focus on 100 percents and in with a focus on "I understand," understanding such that one could explain the concept a week later without any help.
In the U.S., I believe standardized testing has affected the teaching of a lot of schools, sadly. This pressure to have a high scoring class has led to cheating (for instance, in my city's public school system), and a mindset of teaching to the test. I believe that it can definitely be fixed, if we put less emphasis and weight on these tests that truly do nothing. We set the standards and manipulate them so kids meet them. Is that actually Iearning? How does that show that kids are learning? It doesn't, so why do we still rely on these tests as indications of learning success? I realize that downright abolishing standardized tests will be practically impossible, but it's always worth a try!
I think that in general, private schools are doing pretty well, especially in relation to other schools, though I know they're not perfect. I want to help everyone have the kinds of opportunities I've had and help everyone have a good education (one where they learn what they want and the "important" things). I dont like all the pressure on the wrong things -- learning for the tests, for example. I wish learning could be mainly for our improvement instead. It's a lofty goal -- one that I haven't reached yet.
I took up blogging as a way to use my love of writing to get my thoughts out there. Initially, my blog attracted my family and the teachers who inspired me. Eventually, other people found me through Twitter and I also learned of other blogging opportunities thanks to my new connections. Once I knew some people who were writing for the Huffington Post and I realized the attainability of such an opportunity, I thought I'd give it a try. And suddenly I'm in the middle of this education movement and recording the first pieces of what I hope will be outstanding change.
As a student, I've always been a big supporter of students being heard and putting the students back into the school picture. After all, the core idea of school is geared towards the students it's educating. I wanted to start or be a part of a unique blog designed to channel this student energy that would be by students, about students. I eventually connected with Zak, who had a Twitter chat with Allison, then Stephanie contacted us and we were on our way! Stuvoice.org was born and is now gaining steam.
The current education reform movement is a sea of educators, students, admin and parents who want to bring our education system into the 21 century. In my opinion, in the 21 century, our schools ought to have technology, social media, standards-based grading, and leveled practical assessments instead of cut-and-dry tests, among other things.
If I was a teacher, ideally, I would like a classroom with no (or less) focus on the tests, and a standards-based grading system. I think that curriculum-wise, we as a whole are moving already in a great direction with more practical, real-life problems and less simply ideological teaching. I would try to stay away from what I relate to as the Umbridge philosophy, (inspired by J.K Rowling's government-official-turned-teacher: that it's enough to simply know the principles and practicing the concepts is unnecessary.
If I were Arne Duncan, the first thing I'd attempt to change is the mindset that grades are the end-all, be-all. I would try to encourage people to try and not worry about if they fail, that it's OK to mess up.
I know I'm not an expert on education, reform, or any permutation of the two, by any stretch of imagination. I believe in making a better school available to all but my opinion on ed reform is not necessarily the same thing everyone else is saying. I hope my viewpoint can provide another piece to the puzzle and bring us one step closer to putting it all together.