In, “Why School?” author Will Richardson brings up some very important questions about the future of our education system. How will the continued acceleration of information technology advancements change the purpose of our education system? How will our national education system respond? What should the future of education look like?
Richardson brings light a very important issue facing our education system, and one he explains, is moving forward with or without our acknowledgment of it. Education is changing whether we like it or not. Students are more and more deciding on their own what they’re going to learn, how they’re going to learn and with whom they’re going to learn it. With such an incredible explosion in the access students have to information, they no longer need a teacher to be a provider of knowledge. This challenges the traditional concept of the purpose of education that’s developed in our country.
For too long, the measure of success has been assessed by a student’s ability to retain and recount facts. Richardson brings up one example of a standardized test question in which students were asked to name the geographic feature that most impacted the Gupta Empire. If you were a history nerd like me you would have remembered that the Gupta Empire was located in modern India and that region is heavily affected geographically by seasonal monsoons which flood the river valleys and are key to agricultural stability, etc. But then you would have had to have some reason to pay that close attention in World History. This style of question highlights the intent of our education system. At the end of our basic levels of education, if we’re simply dredging for facts to see how much students retained, we’ll wind up creating a system that develops students who are excellent at memorizing and terrible at thinking, and indeed we’ve done just that.
Instead, Richardson proposes, this new access to information may force our education system to return to a purpose that’s as old as thought it-self, to teach students to reason. Ancient Greeks looked out at the world and at the skies above and attempted to reason the order of the cosmos. It wasn’t long before they developed a method of teaching reasoning so that others could build off the thoughts that had developed before them. I believe education carries intrinsic value beyond “economic mobility”. Education ought to produce thinkers, students who are prepared to face a complex world with innovative ideas. If we can begin to approach education as teaching students how to discover rather than how to remember, I think we’ll be headed in the right direction.
Richardson, W. (2012) Why School? How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere. [Kindle version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.