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 To act anew means to have the courage and determination to stand up to outdated ways of thinking and make sure that we carry out that which we are capable of.