My Education Manifesto for 2015

Way back in 2007, my friend and OG mentor Chris Long published his "Future of Learning" Manifesto along with a challenge to others to steal it, tweak it, riff on it, and rewrite their own version. He set the bar far too high, if you ask me (you didn't), but I can't blame him for my own procrastination of boiling down into words what's important to me about education. So here goes, in no particular order...some is stolen (from Chris and others), some is riffed, some is original. That's the way, eh? In no particular order...

(caveat: manifestos are often a bit preachy)

draft #1, 12/30/2014

Short version:

  1. Teaching is the only way to be immortal 
  2. Learning is the work
  3. Seriously, everyone must be learning. All the time.
  4. No one owes you their interest or attention
  5. The world is full of fascinating problems just waiting to be solved
  6. If you don't love people, I mean really love people, please don't go into education (or get out if you're already there)
  7. Schools must help our communities learn how to be good citizens and humans
  8. Technology / the internet is not optional
  9. Technology is a tool, not an end goal
  10. Please know why you're teaching something

Long-winded version:

  1. Teaching is the only way to be immortal - As my body will be part of something else someday (a plant, a bug, some coral, a star, another planet...) and will live on in small bits and pieces, so too will my mind IF I can spend my life spreading and sharing ideas, wonder, and fascinating questions. Otherwise, why was I here? Whom did I serve? Not myself nor the greater world.
  2. Learning is the work - (thanks Michael Fullan) I'm not just talking about student work, or teacher work. ALL work (read: life) is learning, and learning has to be given top priority and fanatical support (time, tools, space, money) for everyone involved: students, faculty, staff, administrators, parents, neighbors. Whatever your business, imagine what kind of a product you'd deliver if you never learned - repeating mistakes, falling behind, becoming irrelevant. Imagine interactions with a loved one that never got better, never progressed deeper b/c you couldn't learn how to communicate with that person. Imagine what medicine would be like! *shiver* Learning is the work. If schools don't put learning first - for EVERYONE - it just won't work. "When you know better, you do better." - quasi Maya Angelou
  3. Seriously, everyone must be learning. All the time. - Educators have a crazy amount of resources for improvement at their fingertips: Twitter is amazing. Google+ is showing serious promise. Podcasts like Edu All-Stars will deliver growth inspiration directly to your ear holes. Hordes of educators congregate at conferences and edcamps around the world and in the next town over. As I've quoted here before, "Our job as educators is to actively work at getting better. If you are a classroom teacher, like me, and your job is to cause learning, but you aren’t actively searching for ways to better cause that learning, then you aren’t really doing your job. If you are an administrator and your job is to help support teachers cause learning, but you aren’t actively searching for ways to help those teachers, then you aren’t really doing your job." (Alexis Wiggins, international teacher and education writer/blogger)
  4. No one owes you their interest or attention - Disengaged students are not flawed - your message is. Could be the content, its importance/relevance, the delivery... (or any or all of the above) but something isn't working. Find it, make it relevant.
  5. The world is full of fascinating problems just waiting to be solved - (thanks Eric S Raymond) We've really screwed things up - the planet, our communities, ourselves. The next batch of folks to inherit the world have their work cut out for them. They will need different tools and ways of thinking to fix our problems. Stop focusing on the tools we used to get us into this mess and start helping them develop a richness of intelligence, compassion, ingenuity, and culture to give them half a chance. If you don't know how to do this, see #3 above.
  6. If you don't love people, I mean really love people, please don't go into education (or get out if you're already there) - How are schools like soylent green? They're both made of people. People are imperfect and exactly as they're going to be - both children and adults. It takes roughly a cubic ton of love, compassion, and empathy to work with someone on anything meaningful, and if you don't like that, leave. No disrespect meant there - in fact, it'll be more respectful to everyone involved - students, colleagues, and yourself - if you do.
  7. Schools must help our communities learn how to be good citizens and humans - There's a lot of talk about online bullying and the other dangers our children (and ourselves) are exposed to on the internet. Lots of it boils down to "people are horrible, we must protect our kids." To me, that's like driving an SUV for safety: you might be more likely to survive a collision, but you're more likely to kill anyone you run into. (It's simple physics: F=MA; add more mass, get more destructive energy.) Trying to remove your kid from the overall culture might, MIGHT, protect that kid, but it does nothing for the rest of us. The fix is to make us all more in touch with the humanity of others, and that requires being present for the conversation, which hints at my next point:
  8. Technology / the internet is not optional - Our students need to be part of the global conversation. We need them to become experts at managing the modern digital landscape and they need their teachers to be knowledgeable and skilled guides. Their guides need to be well-versed in not just the WHATs, but the HOWs and WHYs as well.
  9. Technology is a tool, not an end goal -  All the gadgets, sites, services, applications, apps, etc. are an integral part of the process of learning, but they suck as end goals. School's shouldn't have learning goals about using a specific tech tool, in just the same way that we shouldn't put pure content knowledge in a place above its application or relevance to our learners - we don't learn Mandarin to cross something off a list, but to communicate with a billion+ people on the other side of the world; the point of Algebra is not to learn that letters can sometimes stand in for numbers, but to acquire new problem solving skills in the face of limited information. We may love Mandarin or Algebra (and I do love gadgets), but they serve higher meanings. (Don't even get me started about Carnegie Units and graduation requirements...).
  10. Please know why you're teaching something - If your students can look it up in less than a minute and they won't ever need it for survival in a world without electricity, just how much time and energy do you think it deserves? Perhaps some essential question reflection might be in order.

OK, I think that's good for now. There you go, I've opened my brain to you all, what can you now put in it? If you've made it this far, I challenge you to keep the ball rolling and come up with your own, and have your students do so as well. Communication is good.

It's amazing how scary yet powerful (redundant?) it can be to put your beliefs out there. Comments are on.