Our Vision

Our goal is to provide a roadmap for school transformation to meet the demands of the 21st Century. Our title “Education to Save the World” is not trying to be cheeky. We know what’s at stake and we think schools can make a big difference.

From The Necessary Revolution by Peter Senge, et al:

  • More than a third of the world’s forests have disappeared in the past fifty years.
  • Over 70% of the world’s fisheries are chronically overfished.
  • Many diseases (including many cancers) have become far more prevalent due to toxins in everyday products like food and children’s toys.
  • From 1980 to 2000 the bottom quartile of the world’s people saw their share of global income fall from 2.5% to 1.2%.
  • Approximately 500 million chronically underemployed people currently live in squatter camps and slums and it increases by 50 million each year.

Pair those with these from Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner:

  • U.S. employers rate creativity/innovation among the top five skills that will increase in importance over the next five years.
  • 69% of senior business executives in 12 countries agreed ‘today innovation is more driven by people’s creativity than by high-level scientific research’.
  • 77% agreed, ‘the greatest innovations of the 21st century will be those that helped to address human needs more than those that created the most profit’.

From the same book:

  • Many young people are deeply worried about the future of the planet, seek healthier lifestyles and want to make a difference more than they want to make money.
  • Most have no desire to climb the corporate ladder and wait twenty years to do something interesting or worthwhile. They have dreams and ambitions that demand time and space – and active nurturing.

Now, put those facts next to these:

  • 50% of kids report being bored in school every day
  • 30% of U.S. students drop out of high school.
  • 54% of students who start college do not complete it.

Hmmm…Is it just us who think this simply doesn’t add up?  Let’s see…

The world is falling apart.

economy crisis newspaper

Businesses want creativity and ideas that address human needs.

swirls out of head

Today’s young people want to do something meaningful. Now.

girl jumping blue sky

Meanwhile kids are bored and opting out of school in droves.

Schoolchildren bored in a classroom, during lesson.

So…what does this mean our schools should look like?

Close your eyes and picture this. Just kidding, you can’t read with your eyes closed! 🙂

Picture a school organized around real-world problems that require the flexible application of each subjects’ concepts and skills with an eye toward identifying and developing kids’ passions. There is a combination of structure and “free play”. Students engage in a variety of experiences that ask them to contribute to building a healthy, sustainable and just world. Wow. Read it again and really picture it. Please.

They’re probably not in desks in rows in 50-minute blocks of time, are they?

Elementary Example

High School Example

Notes

Students brainstorm, choose and implement solutions for reducing their impact on the local environment, exploring concepts of ecosystems (science), counting and comparing numbers (math), and interdependence (all disciplines). Students choose an environmental or health situation they frame then brainstorm, select and implement solutions exploring concepts of advanced science and math (e.g. renewable energy solutions for a major company, reducing infant mortality in a developing nation). Students constantly reflect on their work according to intellectual standards, disciplinary concepts and practices and reflect on which parts were the most rewarding for them, ranking projects based on their interests and passions.
Students read two stories about a disagreement between two friends, explain why there could be different views on same situation, then assume the role of a peer mediator to help them sort it out, exploring concepts of fairness (Social Studies), responsibility (SS) and perspective (Language Arts). Students choose and analyze a real-world situation of civil strife and brainstorm, recommend and publish solutions based on fairness, responsibility and perspective (e.g. Mali, Spain, Tibet). Curriculum is vertically aligned to increase in complexity especially around key disciplinary concepts and ways of thinking; students brainstorm and constantly refine their thinking about what makes a sustainable, healthy and just world.

Cool, right?

If you are an educator or parent use these two tools to help young people to find their passions. They are both designed for older kids or adults but you can select certain questions or change the wording to suit younger children.

Passion Survey

Another Passion Survey

Your thoughts (post in the comments section below):

What is your primary concern about the state of the world and would a school organized like this help?

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35 replies

  1. Great introduction, very clear. It will be interesting to see how US schools adjust to meet the demands of globalization. I think you are on to something about the importance of 21st century learning skills. I taught in a private high school for 5 years and a public high school for 3. Currently I work full time on my Ph.d. I am interested in seeing how the site and your vision expand.

    • Thank you, Catherine! You were the first brave soul to comment. We are very interested in (concerned?!) the US response to globalization. Tom Friedman paints a somewhat urgent picture in his book, That Used to Be Us. We shall see. Thank you for following and we look forward to hearing more of your feedback and thoughts!

  2. love this and you!

  3. This is a most worthwhile endeavor. I think my primary concern in education would be equity. As a learning specialist, I see communities enriched by diversity, but in another very similar situation I may see shocking close mindedness or just regular ole gate keeping. It’s shocking. And sadly I don’t always have the tools or backbone to speak up or address it.
    The lack of creative thinking is another huge area of concern. Students seem to be more and more limited each year when it comes to critical thinking or problem solving.
    Keep the topics coming. I am very excited for what is next.

    • Thank you, Hannah. You hit the nail on the head with creativity and we will speak to that a lot (did you see the Ken Robinson video yet?). As for equity, yes, very important point and we need to be sure we are addressing it as we move forward. Will you keep bugging us about including this important point in the discussion? 🙂

    • This blog is great and very much needed! I love and support your vision. I just returned home from the annual Montessori conference and attended amazing workshops on how we can “sustain the light in every child” (the theme of our conference). I heard two inspiring keynote addresses by dynamic child advocates, Dr. Steven Hughes and Dr. Edward Hallowell. Dr. Hughes talked about how the unique Montessori environment and philosophy supports the formation of executive functions by allowing children the freedom to choose work and be resonsible for their actions. The teacher acts as a facilitator or “flame ignitor” in a mixed-aged, caring environment. However, the fundimental principles of her philosophy, such as the teacher as a resource not a problem solver, can be implemented into any classroom. Dr. Hallowell is one of the leaders in the field of ADD. His book, Driven to Disctraction changed the lives of so many adults and children with learning differences. He spoke of his 5 step plan for inspiring successful learning and lifelong JOY (I love that word). Connect, play, practice, mastery, and recognition. It is really about the attitude you come out of childhood with and if you have a good attitude and joy, you can’t lose:) If this resonates with you, check out Dr. Carol Dweck’s book/research called, Mindset The New Psychology of Success.

      • Kate – thanks so much for your comment and suggested speakers and authors. You seem to be able to synthesize multiple ideas about education and are committed to learning more and building on your knowledge base. Kudos! That is Stage 1 of our framework to foster education that will save the world: Adults as Learners. Take a look at our rubric on today’s post and let us know what you think of it!

  4. Very interesting Julie. Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you, Dad. So supportive. Hugs from Sierra Leone.

      • Why don’t you stop over in Nigeria :-)? I was going to post this question , whether your world includes Africa, before I saw your response to your Dad. The world sure includes Africa and sadly the teachers are not aware of why and how critical thinking makes for better learning and makes teaching more of a partnership. Teachers are supposed to be facilitators who create the platform for the bursting creativity in every child to be
        positively , enthusiastically and like i love to say ” with a focus on co creating the future they deserve” released

        I am not a teacher but a life long student who has experienced the rote methodology from kindergarten to college before coming to the US for graduate education
        which required full participation of my thinking hat. I also was married to man who believed and encouraged critical thinking . I am excited to see how this your vision will roll itself out to African countries as I am involved in virtual education in Africa to ensure no child falls though the proverbial crack.
        Best of luck

      • Thank you for your comment, Juliana. I like your way of thinking about the job of a teacher. Keep letting us know what you think of the posts! 🙂

  5. There could not be a more vital set of problems and challenges for the coming decades than those you have outlined above. In fact, in doing numerous workshops for senior officials and corporate executives around the world, on topics seemingly unrelated to education, I am always struck how quickly these very same issues you have enumerated invariably come to the fore in our discussions. I would be interested in engaging and seeing discussion on how we create learning partnerships inside and outside the classroom which bring students into facilitated real-world problem-solving contexts while they also learn new substantive content and important collaboration, research and other skills. Very good initiative. Thank you and best wishes!

  6. Govind- Thank you so much for your comment. Wow: senior officials and corporate executives? Glad you are seeing the same trend from where you sit. Yes, we must bust open the school doors and have students working with professionals on a MUCH more frequent basis. We appreciate your support!

  7. You all are doing great work. Today’s youth face a whole new set of challenges. We need to work with our students to become innovative and resilient. If we can empower them to solve new challenges and face the world head on, they can do anything. The sense of social responsibility you’re cultivating is so important for our communities, nation, and world. Congrats on the initiative and thanks for all you do.

  8. Thank you, Craig for your support and thoughts. It’s ambitious, but we hope to help educators move in that direction in a way that feels authentic and helps to relieve much of the “business” that often plagues teachers. Here’s to optimism!

  9. Students are our aim. We don’t want them to abandon their own responsibilities and feel weak. They always have to feel that they are powerful. We have to push, motivate and support them in their ideas. They are the Future. They want to seek or obtain something, they are bored if we try to give them everything on a silver platter. Students like to challenge themselves and others to prove to the world that they can do it, yes they can!!! They want to be self-employed and want to find their own solutions. They like to predict and a prediction of a young student is often a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  10. Thank you, Nariman. You are passionate about empowering students to think for themselves! Yes! To think for someone else is dehumanizing them. Keep spreading your energy to others.

  11. Your vision and the materials that I find on “Education to Save the World” excite me. I was an activist (issues of social justice and against militarism) when I was younger but eventually realized that I prefer the intimate contact and relationship building of direct service to political organizing. I worked for a long time in mental health and, then, accidentally, found myself working in special education, and, now, as an aide in a self-contained classroom for students with behavior and emotional regulation challenges.

    I often feel despair at the fact that preparation for and whole-hearted work in the classroom leaves me without time and energy to participate in movements that address the planetary problems you outline in the beginning of your vision. It gives me a surge of hope to read the work of educators who are intelligently and creatively synthesizing the needs of the planet and possibilities of education.

    I find your emphasis upon a systems perspective incredibly helpful. In the chaos of the web and everyday life, I am grateful for anything that allows me to pause between stimulus and response and that allows me to take a more expansive view.

    • Thank you so much, Laurie! Wow. This comment will keep us going. You are exactly the type of person we hope will read it and be inspired to comment and let us know how we can tweak our ideas. As we move up our framework we’ll get more and more into how the way we do school can fundamentally save the world. 🙂

  12. Just found your site through Julia’s LinkIn connection. I LOVE your ideas and will enjoy following your posts. Thanks for being a voice of optimism and change in a world blindly executing tradition.

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