Manna isn’t falling from the sky

Today was the 2nd day of the GE Foundation’s Developing Futures in Education 2010 Conference, an invite-only conference for the districts they fund throughout the country. This morning, we had the pleasure of hearing the many schemas for schools from David Jackson, partner in the Innovation Unit, an education futurist non-profit organization in London, UK. I learned a few things that are (for better or worse) irrefutable:

  • Many of us are just not ready to think 3.0 when we’re still catching up to 2.0.
  • Teachers specifically want something tangible when discussing anything about the immediate or abstract future.
  • We have little faith that our colleagues as a whole will want to let go of their power structure within the system.
  • Many of us are still waiting for the manna to drop from the sky, or the higher-ups.

By manna, I’m referring to the nutrition that came from the heavens when the Israelites needed some nourishment in their travels through the dessert. But for the purposes of this post, I’m also referring to the idea that someone from the higher-ups, whether it be collegiate think tanks, corporation-funded non-profits, or the Secretary of Education. Believe what you will, the system perpetuates the status quo, and the profit models for education currently support millions of dollars going into third party vendors to move what we call standards wherever those in power see fit.

Therefore, when looking at the models Mr. Jackson provided, I pondered for a bit about the work many teachers are doing across the country to truly move the work forward, and the way we need to think about student learning as a whole. Then, when time for feedback came, I stood up in front of the crowd and said, “Well, this is great, and we’re intrigued by the possibilities, but if we’re really going to do the work, it has to come from us. It has to come from the ground up, not the top down. The status quo is the status quo because of this model. Rarely does real change come from the higher ups; the change has to come from students, parents, teachers, and anyone who considers themselves allies to our cause.”

I got a light applause. Appreciated, yes, but the more I thought about the future, the more it made me wonder the sort of curve we’re going to have to slide down to get true change. I sat down, had a glass of water, and just hoped for the best. Educators are practitioners, yes, but we’re the ones we’ve been waiting for.

And if our hands are still cupped waiting outside, we better have a huge canteen as well.

Jose, who’s looking to reflect more on this as we go on this journey…

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