Last year I was inspired by an excellent post written by Umair Haque on Harvard Business Review called “The Betterness Manifesto“. In it, Umair writes about building a better 21st century. I was pointed to the post originally by @ianchia who regularly cheers me on to do work that is meaningful, and was reminded of it again when Umair tweeted a link to it last week. Because I relate everything I read and experience back to education and learning, I re-wrote “The Betterness Manifesto” post as it relates to my thoughts about building a better education system.
With permission from Umair, this is my Betterness Manifesto for education:
So you want to build a better education, but how? Consumption of enough content and material alone won’t do it. We must reach forward for a complete reboot in education. We must yearn for betterness.
Betterness in education requires:
- Companies that don’t get into the business of education to push a political movement or to make a profit at the expense of our youth. Instead we need to support education companies that can be profitable, but that profit by doing really meaningful stuff that matters. Start investing in, and supporting, education companies that are sustainable and have real substance that will impact children positively. Support those education companies that take an interest in, and engage, the education community.
- People and businesses who will take an interest in what is really happening in local classrooms. Don’t take the word of major news organizations that thrive on scandal. Instead, visit classrooms, find out what is really happening, discover the real needs of education. Volunteer in a local school, take a teacher out to lunch and discover what the learning landscape is really lacking. Give something of yourself.
- People who will put their money and words behind educational movements and companies that do awesome stuff that is made with love, ethics, and passion (they DO exist!).
- Administrators, lawmakers and educators who will stand up to, and quit, curriculum companies who push something that is meaningless (i.e. curriculum designed to help pass a test created by said curriculum company). Betterness in education can’t come as a result of companies churning out toxic junk. Only support education companies that do meaningful work.
- People who will involve themselves in building a school community of talented, passionate support.
- People who will become a volunteer, mentor a child, get involved. Do something. Support those that do something that benefits the children inside of a school more than it benefits themselves or their political agenda.
- People who support what they really think matters. Do you want children who learn to be critical thinkers and problem solvers? Quit supporting standardized testing. Do you want children who have their gifts and talents nurtured? Stop purchasing boxed curriculum as a one-size-fits-all education solution. Do you want students who arrive at school ready to learn? Ensure that every child in the community is well nourished and healthy. Support what it is that really matters.
- Educators who will continue to do what is best for kids every day.
- A learning environment created with children in mind. A place where students can inquire, discover, explore, experiment and problem solve. A place where they can acquire skills and knowledge not to pass the next test, but to construct and transfer meaning to new contexts.
- Administrators who will let their teachers be teachers. Administrators who build a dream team and then support them to be their best every day.
It is only when each of us stand up and take responsibility that we can work toward a better educational future that impacts us all.
Let’s together change the fabric of education and, subsequently, our future. Real change doesn’t happen as we wait on politicians and the big six (curriculum publishers) to make a shift. Real change begins with each of us, educators and non-educators alike. Education is an institution that has touched every one of us, some positive and some negative. It is something that we all have the responsibility of pouring into and working toward betterness. Currently we are making poor decisions by trying to fill in the gaps with the same old toxic junk (one-size-fits-all curriculum, standardized testing). We are the freest people in history, it is time that we started educating accordingly.
Every revolution begins from the bottom up. If we are truly fed up with the current education mess that we find ourselves in, then it is time to do something about it. The current system needs to be rejected and refused. It is up to us to build a better education opportunity instead.
Thank you Umair for the inspiration, the launching point, and agreeing to let me write an education version of your great “Betterness Manifesto”. Here is to betterness in all capacities of life in 2012!
Ways I hope to bring betterness in 2012:
- Continue working to make Anastasis Academy a betterness education model that can spread.
- Launch the Learning Genome that will take steps to customize the learning landscape for every child.
- Continue connecting with passionate bottom-up educators around the world through Twitter, blogs, conferences, and the Reform Symposium.