If We Started From Scratch What Would Schools Look Like?
Debates rage on about the quality of our public school system in the United States, with a wide variety of opinions on the matter range from “our schools are broken” to “our schools are the best in the world.” In truth as with most things, the actuality of things lies somewhere in the middle. One unifying concern among critics of the public school system is that, at its core, it is antiquated and fails to properly prepare students for the rigors of higher education or the job market.
So, hypothetically, what would happen if we decided to blow apart the public school system and start from scratch? What would schools look like? How would a core curriculum set itself up? What would the face of education look like if we wiped all vestiges of the old system off the map and replaced it?
A student-centered school
One K-8 public school in San Diego, California has taken on this challenge on a micro-scale. The mission of Poway Unified School District’s 39th school, Design 39 Campus is to create an environment less predicated on the systemic aspects of other public schools and much more focused on creating a nurturing environment for students and teachers alike. Using research done on schools around the United States, guidance from educational leaders, and the thoughts of local residents, the school is thinking outside of the box by giving students more say in their school days, giving teachers more power to make decisions on lesson plans, and even has erased the concept of a principal’s office.
There’s also a huge predication on technology and the role it plays in both leisure and education for students. Proponents of this argument that we can take some of the traditions and existing knowledge base from our current public school system, but retool them and rethink them to be malleable to new developments in technology and how information is accessed. With the proliferation of smartphones, keeping education up to speed with what students are seeing daily in that arena could help to increase student engagement across the board.
Other ideas to push public schools into the future
Another way to look at things when it comes to the idea of starting our school system from scratch is to focus the natural evolution already happening in public schools and pushing ahead of the curve. A key aspect is the belief of many that traditional education’s current hierarchy of top-down, do-what-you’re-told teaching heavy on texts and reading is already primed for an overhaul.
Rather than building new schools in the image of old schools which utilized this approach, new schools could be on the cutting edge and embrace innovation in all of its myriad forms. In short, teachers and administration members of these new public schools would be tasked with quickly adapting to trends in learning and learning efficiency, bucking the current bureaucratic slowness of changing lesson plans and directions in favor of a more fluid approach which takes students’ concerns and performance into account with much more efficiency and systemic innovation.