Friday, February 26, 2016

What are we thinking? It's most likely what we're reading

I've come to believe that there are few of us in the mainstream, public school leadership arena that either read or talk with others who challenge our beliefs about what we are doing and where our schools are headed. I may be overstating this since I have no research base to prove my assertion, but I seldom see discussions through Twitter or in person that reject the idea of "better sameness" and instead challenge us to rethink and redesign our educational systems.

Pictured here is a stack of recently published works that DO challenge what we are doing in preparing our kids for a world we have little understanding of other than to know it will be quite different from the one we grew up in, or even the one we're living in today. Much of what is in these writings is "in your face" kinds of thinking that force readers like me to run away from the concept of "school improvement" and run towards "school redesign." There are more like it and many great blog posts as well as full journal articles but are they accomplishing their mission? I don't know.

What I see daily on Twitter from superintendents, principals and other educational leaders causes me to doubt it. When it comes to school leadership and moving education forward, what I tend to see more of is Twitter turned into a "brag board" of initiatives or accomplishments that look and smell like "better sameness." Not that branding our schools and communicating student accomplishments aren't important but where are the more challenging posts that move our thinking away from mindsets cemented in the mid-20th century to visions of this century and beyond? Where are those leaders willing to stand in the public square and shout, "The emperor has no clothes!?"

I'm sure there are many out there who might dispute my perception of a general lack of creativity and willingness to challenge the status quo. Perhaps things are just rosy right where they are at and haven't adopted a global view of the state of our educational system. Or perhaps the political climate in their neck of the woods isn't one that supports a design thinking effort because, heck, our football team was undefeated last year! Why should we change?

It's the end of the sixth month of the school year in the first year of the second half of the second decade of the 21st century. It's high time we throw off our restrictive, protective school improvement armor and create schools of learning designed around the needs of our students, families and communities.