People living in the 21st century will experience an unprecedented rate of change. But that doesn’t make changing any easier.
There are many times when I look at my cell phone in amazement. I am amazed at the things I can do with my phone, and I know that there are many things it can do of which I am still completely unaware! Imagine what our phones will be able to do in the next 5 years. Yet, people seldom complain about this kind of change. In fact, people often line up to get the latest version of their smartphone!
So, why are people so reluctant to accept changes to our K-12 educational system? The nostalgia for “the way it was when I was in school” is fascinating. I cannot imagine a parent telling a doctor that she should use the same treatment plan from 30 years ago without considering the value of new treatments that have been developed. However, when changes are proposed for our schools, many argue to keep things the way they have always been.
I have worked in 4 school systems. This pattern of rejecting change has been evident in every school district regardless of the change being proposed. I have seen numerous emails against changing grading practices, adjusting school calendars, and modifying graduation requirements. It doesn’t matter if research supports the change, there is an overwhelming comfort with keeping things the same when it comes to K-12 education.
And yet, we know that the students in our public schools today are very different than the students who sat in classrooms 20, 30, or more years ago. We have a more diverse student population, and the society in which our students now live is vastly different. There is a need to make substantive changes to our K-12 education structures in order to fully support our 21st century students. It is time to have conversations about year-round schools, standards-based grading, flexible scheduling, and personalized educational plans. These conversations will be more productive if we can escape the nostalgia argument and accept that what was good enough then may not be good enough now!