Step #1: Undermine Learners and Educators: In this thing we call the education system, the two most important parties are those doing the learning and those doing the teaching. (Often, mind you, these are the same people.) However, if you're going to incite learners and educators toward revolution, it's important to take away their power to do good work.
Force students to take standardized tests so often that class time is never just about learning; it's always about beating those tests. And hold a carrot in front of educators so that their attention is more on getting paid or keeping their jobs than on fostering learning.
Step #2: Kill Morale: Once everyone is distracted trying to pass arbitrary tests and keep their paychecks intact, the next step is to lay off teachers and strip schools of extracurricular activities.
A good friend and fellow educator was handed his pink slip last spring because his district couldn't afford to keep another English teacher. An English teacher! (I'm a little biased because I happen to be an English teacher, too, but when did reading, writing, and critical thinking skills become expendable?) I should note that this teacher is a graduate of Stanford and of Harvard's School of Education. He's taught in an inner city New York experimental school and a more rural school in Oregon for almost a decade. In other words, he's a well educated, experienced teacher, and he's passionate about mentoring students. This isn't the kind of guy you'd lay off in any kind of sane world.
This is the kind of guy you'd want to start his own school. And luckily, in the wake of his layoff, he's doing just that. A few months ago, he learned of a place in Massachusetts called North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens, and he's working to replicate that model here in Portland, Oregon, along with a ragtag team of educators who've had enough.
Step #3: Empower Educators to Work Outside the System: As you've probably noticed, steps 1 and 2 really help to instigate the learning revolution by breeding discontent. The final step moves toward the positive by giving educators the tools to do the good work they're so desperately trying to do.
What are educators often missing when they want to implement creative solutions in their classrooms, homeschooling cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, after-school programs...and the list goes on? Funds! They have the ideas, the passion, the drive. But in a system that's drowning in debt and bureaucracy, educators often don't have access to the money necessary to bring their innovations to life. Until now.
Introducing IncitEd: Grassroots Educational Innovations, the brain child of my business partner and fellow educator, Kevilina Burbank, and me. We want to give education back to educators, broadly defined. Maybe an educator looks like someone keeping kids safe and in school in Syria or keeping them off the streets in Portland. Maybe an educator works at a homeschooling cooperative, providing kids and families a place to learn together. Or maybe it's someone who teaches kids to fly, literally. Whoever educators are, and however they're defined, they deserve a chance to make the difference most of them have been working fervently for their entire careers.
IncitEd is just getting started. Right now we're testing our idea among friends, family, and other teachers via our IncitEd crowdfunding campaign. We'll be doing our alpha test in three weeks with two projects (to fund P:ear and my friend who's starting a North Star replication). Our beta test will follow shortly after with a dozen or more projects. We're asking for two things to help us incite this learning revolution:
- Go to our Facebook page, "Like" us, and tell your friends about us.
- Visit our Incited campaign to learn more about what we're up to, and let others know about it if you think IncitEd is worth promoting.
If we democratize change, helping it catch fire from the ground up, innovation will spread faster and be more connected to the people who need it most. That's our hypothesis anyway. What do you think?