It is becoming clear to everyone teachers, parents, the government, and the experts that education must change. The New Children are bored at best with the old way, and in the worst-case scenarios, they are being deeply damaged by a system that runs totally counter to their natures. Unless we do something, our children are not going to listen to us anymore. They are longing for an educational system that has heart as well as knowledge, a system that is innovative and perhaps surprisingly unique, as the computer was when it appeared. An educational system that brings back curiosity and wonder.
There have been a few innovators, such as Drs. Rudolf Steiner and Maria Montessori, who explored new possibilities of teaching. But for the most part their proposed educational systems were and still are on the outer edge of acceptability.
Now, however, the world is catching up with the necessity for change. Everywhere, we can see the buds of a new educational consciousness getting ready to burst into flower. The rote memory system which is still the mainstay of our children's schooling will soon be replaced by concepts that would have been undreamable a few generations ago.
People like John Taylor Gatto, winner of the New York State Teacher of the Year award and author of Dumbing Us Down, have made it extremely clear that we have major problems in our school system. Gatto has put the United States on educational alert. He, and others like him, have made it clear, not only to the schools themselves but to those who are in power, that we must change now. Tomorrow is too late.
In this spirit of change, private and charter schools are beginning to experiment with the basic concepts of what learning is all about. America is becoming the test tube for what just may prove to be an educational Renaissance
But the situation is complex. Much more is contemplated, for example, than simple changes of curriculum. In some cases, like the Sudbury model, curriculum is eliminated entirely, with surprisingly positive results. There are in fact a myriad of different concepts abroad as to how our educational system can best be recreated to meet our needs.
Houses of Education
There are four different ''houses'' in which education takes place, and it is the shift from the public schoolhouse to other areas that is perhaps the most significant change that has already begun.
The four areas are:
- The Public Schools
What are they doing, if anything? From my observation, the government would like to respond to the perceived crisis, for to do so has become politically correct. The appearance of charter schools (see below) is evidence of this. But a true understanding of the problems and their possible solutions is probably not going to come from our government. It will be people like you and me, along with educators who truly care, who will find the way out of the crisis that has become our children's daily lives. If you wish to read what the government has to say, go to ed.gov.
- Charter Schools
Charter schools are schools that are funded by the government, but are privately run. The appearance of charter schools has allowed private enterprise and ingenuity to come into play in educating our children. Since 1991, 36 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have signed charter-school legislation into law.
Both the government and the education world are carefully watching this experiment in education. For more information see: US News Charter Schools report, and uscharterchools.org.
- Private Schools
Like charter schools, private schools have the freedom to try new ideas. This approach will of course create successes as well as failures. But because they are dependant upon student tuition, the private schools do not have the financial freedom that the charter schools enjoy. A correlary of this financial dependancy is that only those children can attend whose parents can afford the hefty tuition.
- Home Schooling
For many who cannot afford private schools for their children, home schooling has become the only practical solution to what many parents perceive as the unacceptable alternative: sending their children to public schools.
In recent years, home schooling has become a normal and accepted practice. And despite what we may think of as the simplicity of this approach, home schools are contributing new ideas which may change education forever. Many of these ideas are being fueled by the computer revolution.
- Computer Education
Computers have changed every other aspect of our lives more than they have changed the way in which education happens in our schools.
And, according to Intel CEO Craig Barrett, although ''over $40 billion dollars has been spent in the United States on computer hardware for schools ... very little has been invested to train teachers how to effectively use the technology.'' Our educational system is steeped in conservatism, and innovative approaches are not as well accepted here as in the business world.
But what some are finding is that the interaction between humans and computers could well be the beginning of rapid forms of accelerated learning that are only in their infancy at this time.
- The Internet: A Virtual School
Although this seems to be a subset of what is possible with computers, the Internet affords an entire world of educational magic that is in the process of transforming how we learn.
MIT University announced in April 2001 that their entire university curriculum everything that MIT offers to its tuition-paying students is now available on the Internet free of charge!
When asked if this were going to hurt them, MIT officials answered in what I feel is an honorable manner. Teaching, they said, not money, is the purpose of an educational institution. They pointed out that MIT also offered the first free library to the world, and that people thought they were crazy then, for the same reasons. MIT has suggested that all universities and colleges follow their example and publish their curricula on the Internet, creating a vast, incredible database for anyone who wants to learn.
At the same time, Dell Computer recently put up over 100 million dollars to create an Internet education system for the world where anyone, anywhere, has free access to the information.
And in its ''Teach to the Future'' program, Intel, with support from Microsoft Corporation, will invest $100 million in cash, equipment, curriculum development, and program management over the next three years to train more than 400,000 classroom teachers in 20 countries around the world.
These corporate and university giants are seeing something about our educational future that we should perhaps become aware of: that the Internet may possibly make obsolete the entire concept of physical schools, replacing them with the ''virtual school.''
Read what PG News has to say about virtual schools at Distance Education Article. Here we read about the extended use of the Internet and computer possibilities.
In its simplest form, distance education, through video conferencing, makes it possible for one teacher to speak in many different classrooms at once.
But the virtual school is much more than simply a replacement for school buildings. It will be open 24/7/365. And it will go beyond home schooling, for it can and almost certainly will enter the realm of accelerated-learning techniques, enabling languages and other complex subjects to be absorbed in months instead of years. Which leads us to...
- New Learning Technologies
This is the area in which I perceive the greatest possibility for truly revolutionary change. Especially with the increased availability and sophistication of what is now being called VLE, or "virtual learning environments,'' interactive Internet programs could make obsolete our entire concept of ''schools.'' To read about VLE, go here.
The newest area of learning, beyond VLE, is called VLT, and this holds out even greater possibilities. VLT consists of 3D virtual environments using specialized frequencies that ''tune'' the brain to accept information, and specialized programs that give direct, ''virtual'' experiences to the student. VLT can create a ''virtual campus,'' similar to that offered by CALT Center for Advanced Learning Technologies with its Virtual Worlds. The VLT curriculum can use games, for example, as the basis of delivering material to be learned, or even completely subliminal methods, or subliminal methods superimposed over ordinary techniques.
These areas of learning are new, but it seems obvious that VLT will become dominant if teachers and students find that the success rate for learning is higher than for other methods.
On the far side of new learning technologies is the seemingly miraculous work of people like Viasheslav Bronnikov in Russia/Ukraine. We have already published an article about his work (see The Bronnikov Method: Teaching Blind Children to See), and there's more in this issue at The Bronnikov Method: Creating Genius. Bronnikov teaches people to read a book simply by picking it up in their hands. It then appears on the ''inner screen'' of the mind, complete with illustrations (for more about this, see my own article at Super Psychics and the Inner TV Screen)!
Obviously, if Bronnikov's work, and that of others like Sr. Guillermo Altamirano (Inge Bardor's ''Memo'') and Russia's Boris Zolotov, can be brought into the mainstream, then the future of learning will someday make a turn that is so simple not even needing computers it will alter learning, and indeed our entire concept of who we are, forever.
There's a problem, though, and it is clearly stated by Harvard University professor Chris Dede: ''Moving the minds and hearts is definitely the more complex process than putting the infrastructure in place.'' Speed-reading, for example, was actually introduced way back in the '60s. And, as Chris Dede's statement predicts, even though it proved to be far more powerful and actually worked better than anything that had come before, the conservative nature of traditional education has kept this technique from even being considered for use in our schools.
Now, with the advent of the home computer, interactive learning programs such as VLE and VLT, as they progress into maturity and cover more and more subjects, may make everything else we have talked about irrelevant.
- The Need for Self-Esteem
One of the greatest dangers in educating our children by traditional methods is that so many of them are emotionally damaged or lose their self-esteem in the process. Many young adults come out of our school system feeling for whatever reason that they are not able or even worthy to reach for the stars.
No matter what direction our educational system takes, the way in which it disempowers our children has to become a primary focus of necessary change. And many people, such as Jack Canfield and John and Nicole Clark (see Emotional Intelligence: You Can Learn It), have long recognized this factor, and have been working tirelessly in our schools in the trenches, so to speak to do something about it. They, along with the Joseph Cornells, the Joanne Laucks, and many others whose work we talk about in this magazine, are the new heroes in this world.
Who Learns What and Why?
Not only the way in which we teach our children, and where we do it, but what we are teaching them has begun to take center stage in the considerations of educational change. And even though this area is of paramount importance, we will say very little about it here, because it has been a warring ground from the beginning of education itself.
I am certain this war will never end, and perhaps rightfully so. Everyone has diverse concepts as to what is important in life, and what we should teach our children. The Spirit of Ma'at will not enter this endless debate, but with Larry Weshon (see A Child's Right to Pursue Happiness) we can at least question whether or not it is up to us to make this decision at all. And you can, if you wish, post your own ideas on our new community message boards.
Education is about all aspects of life and all peoples at all ages. Learning is an essential expression of living. So you can use this web site, and others like it, to express your opinions and understanding. In coming together we will find the wisdom and synthesis which is the very purpose of learning.
Let's test the proverb that says ''The pen is mightier than the sword.''
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