Inspired by a recent blog post by a friend of mine doing amazing work in the field of communal philanthropy (Mike Zserdin, whose blog, Anthropy.us, is worth following) and the question he poses, “How might we…,” I propose both to ask and to throw out possible solutions to the question I have been asking for the better part of the last five years (and multiple times on this blog–check out the “Education” category for more thoughts on this):
How might we create a school where wisdom, virtue and the common good were normative? Where full human growth and flourishing were what mattered? Where students grappled with big ideas about themselves, the human condition, the problem of evil, and the nature of the human experience? Where they learned how to live and lead from the inside out? Where the only test that mattered was the test of one’s life? Where students learned how to write large stories with their lives (while avoiding becoming their own tragic character)? Where learning was an integrative experience of head, hands and heart? Where projects had purpose? Where grades, test scores, standards, and outside bureaucratic expectations did not matter? Where students interacted with faculty as mentors rather than as antagonists? Where deep thinking went along with deep purpose? Where students read serious literature, used math and science to solve real-world problems, understood history to better understand the human experience? Where students were free to become authors and artists, musicians and architects, engineers and poets, philosophers and statesmen, humanitarians and biologists? Where passion, creativity, and discovery went hand-in-hand with rigorous intellectual inquiry, deep personal formation and life-changing experiences?
If you are a parent, wouldn’t you like to send your student to a school like this? If you are a student, wouldn’t you like to attend a school like this? If you are a teacher, wouldn’t you like to teach in a place like that? If you are a college admissions director, wouldn’t you like to accept students from a school like this? If you are a business employer, wouldn’t you like to hire a thinker like this?
I believe with all of my heart that the answer to each of these questions is a resounding YES!! In fact, I think education is starving for such a place. I think our culture is crying out for students who fit this bill. That is why I have quit my job in order to pursue creating such a place.
So, in answer to the question posed by my friend Mike, here are my “How might we” thoughts to creating a school like this.
In thinking of the kind of school that should be, We might…
–start by thinking through the kinds of human beings we want to help shape. For me, they would be wise, virtuous, caring thinkers capable of wrestling with deep issues with the intent of giving their lives sacrificially to making the world better in every area (medicine, science, business, media, etc.) as well as fully capable of pushing back darkness in such areas as foster care, human trafficking, climate change, poverty, and homelessness.
–create a better narrative for the human experience that is rooted in creation rather than consumption (see Beyond School Reform for a deeper analysis of this idea)
–create a curricular vision that has as its end wisdom and virtue rather than grades and test scores
–create spaces for critical conversations rather than rote memorization
–foster more teacher/student engagements that were mentor/apprenticeships rooted in independent study than in large, autonomous classes where worksheets are the norm (check out this great video of a student begging his teacher to teach them how to think!!)
In thinking of how to pull this off, We might…
–begin a conversation with like-minded folk about how to fund, resource and create such a place
–bring to the table persons of influence interested in the same vision of education who would be willing to sacrifice time, talent and money to see it happen
–create a model that could be replicated and collaborative so that, rather than competing with other school models, it could serve as a positive example of how schooling can be done
Now, here is where you come in. I am dedicating my life to see this happen, but (as I am constantly reminded) I cannot do this alone. I know there are like-minded teachers, administrators, parents, students, entrepreneurs, and influencers who might be willing to invest in something like this if they had the right presentation.
I am putting my life where my mouth is: If you know of anyone who might be even remotely interested in engaging in this conversation and dreaming this dream, please send them to me via my contact info (email: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter samartin01).
Though I am geographically and spiritually tied to Oklahoma City (a place where great things are going on in response to the common good every day), I am open to discussions of a school model along these lines that can be replicated anywhere.
Having been in education in one form or another for most of my life, I am convinced to my core that this can be done, that it should be done, and that, God-willing, it will be done.**Feel free to add your thoughts, comments, ideas, suggestions and critiques!