Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Iowa: Did You Know?

During the last several weeks, I have been commenting on the Education Summit and some of the challenges that we face with the whole idea of reforming our educational system in Iowa.  I belabored the point that, although important, this work can't move forward without the full support of the decision makers at the state level.  In fact, in my conversations with people who have asked, my comments about the education summit have been summed up in a pretty simple phrase, "talk is cheap".  Perhaps there has been some skepticism in my tone.  I find myself asking the question, "Does Iowa have the political will to transform our educational system?"  We don't yet know the answer to that question.  Time will tell.

In Hudson, we know all too well that money is tight.  Our current financial position has caused us to make some tough decisions and no doubt there are still difficult decisions to come.

To reform our educational system, from the state down to the district level, it is going to force all of us to view education through a different paradigm.  Unfortunately, the schools we have today look very much like the schools that you and I attended.  I say 'unfortunately', because so much has changed in that time frame.  Computers and the Internet have changed all of that.  We are a global society, and yes, we are training our students for jobs that don't even exist yet. 

When we think about school, we think about what it was like when we were there.  Tragically, we often think that is what school should look like for our children.

So then, have I made my point?  Change is hard.  We have financial considerations, and a system of educating our population that is based on a model that is over 100 years old.  Those are two pretty huge obstacles that stand in our way.  It would be very easy to kick the can down the road and leave the task to someone else. 

But what is at stake?  Take a look at the video that is included with my post this week.  Some of you have probably seen the popular "Did You Know" videos.  This one has been specially prepared for Iowa and very clearly illustrates what is at stake.  The video is authored by Dr. Scott McLeod of Iowa State University, who is also a co-author of the very popular "Did You Know" series.  After viewing the video, I would encourage you to join the conversation by visiting and bookmarking the Iowa Future website.

For those of you that are avid readers like me, I would recommend you read The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner, co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  In his book, Wagner outlines seven 'survival skills' for today's youngsters.  These are not the same skills we were taught in school.

We can all agree that this will be difficult.  The challenge will be to get everyone to agree that this is necessary.  Shall we roll up our sleeves and get to work?

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