Three things I want to do every day for the rest of my life.

Think anew. Act anew.

I plan to begin my next classes with the following quote from Abraham Lincoln, in his 1862 annual message to Congress. “It is not “can any of us imagine better?” but, “can we all do better?” The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”  I first heard part of this quote in a speech delivered by Sir Ken Robinson, whose TED talks (two of the best ones viewed below) have been viewed millions of times and have served as a major source of inspiration for others and myself in the pursuit of an Education Revolution.  Lincoln’s words have taken on great significance for me in recent days as our class is taking on the task of designing our course for the year.

As much as my students are excited at the possibilities of our class environment can create, I continue to find it challenging to set their minds free as it pertains to their ‘learning’ this year.  Our most recent class discussion centered on how we want to learn and use the course curriculum throughout the year.  So many of them wanted to revert to traditional ways of learning, assessing, and running a classroom, mainly because it allowed them to stay in their comfort zones.  Over the course of 10 years or so, they have become accustomed to a particular way that school information should be learned, grades established, and content knowledge assessed, and while it that way has limited their potential as learners, they have come to accept it as the norm.

It is moments such as this that our class statements of purpose should come in so handy.  Reminded that our goals dismiss conventional approaches and seek opportunities to challenge ourselves in new and creative ways, we can only choose a path that dares to be different.  Lincoln’s challenge means that we must both think and act anew.  To think anew means to see new purpose in education, set new goals, change what we wish to achieve, and reevaluate what we value in our educational experience.  To act anew means to have the courage and determination to stand up to outdated ways of thinking and make sure that we carry out that which we are capable of.

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2 responses

  1. I find it fascinating (although I am not at all surprised) that your students are hesitant to explore the challenges beyond their comfort zone of what they are used to. Looking forward to see what unfolds. And how has your role changed? How far out have you gone beyond your comfort zone? Not easy and kol hakavod (hats off and all the honor) to you for what you are trying to do.

    September 19, 2011 at 3:36 am

  2. Bradley Petersen

    I’ve contemplated assessments many times and go back and forth as to the purpose of them? Take a psychology class for example. What is the point of reading a chapter and giving a test to see if they remembered the material? Is the point/purpose to remember something? Or is the point to act on their knowledge and fix a problem, help a family member or a member of society to walk them through a challenge, or train them to improve something. Can they demostrate how Maslow’s heirarchy of needs helped them make a better choice or decision for themselves. Can they give a real life example of how Kohlberg’s Moral stages of development made them act at their highest level of greatness? If they remember his name and his stages, but improve nothing, or act on nothing, did they really learn anything? Yet, this is what schools test. If they forgot his name, and the official name of stage 6, but remember the basic principles of the stage and acted on them, I’d say success. Someone learned something. Pat that student on the back. I’m glad that you’re moving beyond a test and helping student’s to develop their ability to think, love and do. Nice work and I’ll work on these as well. You’ll have to test me later :)

    September 20, 2011 at 5:43 pm

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