Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Will Change?

There's a lot of talk these days about preparing students for life in the 21st century.  These 21st century skills are like an elusive shadow.  Talk of them is everywhere, just what they will be or what they will look like is unknown.  For me, that mystery is one of the things that makes this a powerful and challenging time to be an educator.  One of the questions that I have is "What will school look like?" or put another way "How will school be different to help students master the skills for the future"  I would say that if you could snatch a teacher via time machine from the 1800s you could probably plop them into a school of today and apart from the scandalous dress, strange language ("What is the world is a "google" and why would I want to do it to someone?") and the shiny objects people gaze into at great length, they would recognize most everything about the place.  We are trying to teach our students into the 21st century using a 19th century device; the public school system.  Think about it, students come to school in the fall even though we've long since stopped needing extra child labor to bring in the crops.  Teachers primarily use standardized text books and follow scripted lessons.  Students when they misbehave are sent to the principals office and if they don't complete assignments they generally miss recess.  I believe that my grandmother who taught in the middle of the last century could probably sub for me if I had that trusty time machine.  In fact looking at a picture from one of her classes in the late 1940s I was struck by how similar it looked to my own classroom of today.  And so I wonder, what will need to change, what will it look like?
I don't have the answers, I'm still working on the best questions to ask.
What do you think?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why Heroes?

I once heard someone say that great people are like the first stars of the evening that appear just above the horizon, they train your eye to look just a little higher.  Many of my heroes have mighty failings.  I don't expect perfection, don't even look for it, what is it anyhow?  I read the biography of Charles Schulz that came out a few years back after reading many negative reviews of the book.  Seems some people were offended that the author wrote a detailed account of the artist's life including romantic affairs and some difficult personality issues.  My own view was that I had read the book to learn more about the greatest cartoonist of all time, a man who created the most recognizable characters of the past century.  I wasn't reading the book to learn how to marry the ideal partner and have a happy life, free from any upset.  The heroes I've listed are people who inspire me by reaching, by expanding the possibilities of humanity.  One of my songs features this chorus "Exercise your dignity, celebrate humanity, stimulate creativity and stretch your capabilities" That's a pretty good summing up of what kind of behavior catches my attention and creates a new hero.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

All I need is a Hero

In the book "High Fidelity" the main character suggests that the best way to know a person is to look at their music collection.   The proper percentage of hip albums would reveal the persons true nature, too many albums that would be easily recognized by the casual fan was a sure sign of a problem.   A more interesting way to get to know someone I think is to ask about their heroes.   I say this partly because I think everyone needs heroes.  I'll open up this blog by listing a few of my heroes.  If you don't recognize some, look them up!
(In no particular order)
Paul Robeson
Pete Seeger
Edward R. Murrow
Eleanor Roosevelt
Marian Anderson
George Fox
Patti Smith
Studs Terkel
Jackie Robinson
Frederick Douglass
Franz Kline
Abraham Lincoln
George Carlin
Joseph Campbell
Johnny Cash
Bill Moyers