There is a hashtag doing the rounds on Twitter right now in relation to Education asking #whatif.
Its origins stem from the US Secretary for Eduction Arne Duncan, who asked teachers via his Twitter account...
What if every district committed both to identifying what made their 5 best schools successful & providing those opps to all their students?
On the face of it, a simple enough question and worthy of thought, and one I am sure his office originally thought would be a profound opportunity to look knowledgeable and open to suggestion. However, dig a little deeper and you are left with some serious questions about how you identify 'the best schools', what equitable sliders you put through that identification and, once you start digging, you quickly realise the hole you are digging will be deeper than the earths 'common core' - pun intentional.
What then transpired was the opportunity to use that 'What if' statement to fire some educational wonderings, frustrations, home truths and genuine concerns back. I am under no doubt that Arne Duncan and his office were not expecting the way #Whatif has become such an important vehicle for parents and educators to challenge ill thought out policy and to reiterate that which is really important about education. I doubt they realise it would be global - here I sit on New Years day on the other side of the world, wondering about my own educational 'What ifs'.
Since I noticed the #Whatif tweets filling up my 'tweetmosphere' feeds, I have not stopped wondering about what my own #Whatifs are for education. I have many, and nary the time to write them all, but the following are some of my top wonderings.
- Education and Educational policy was left to Educators to design, implement, and to measure for accountablity. Imagine the way our children's lives would be transformed. Imagine how our society would benefit.
- Politicians' and Policy makers who know nothing about Education, trusted Educationalists' to do what is best for the children of our Nations'. What do they think would happen? Do they not realise that we are a parent, aunt, uncle and neighbour too! Why do they not understand that we also want the very best for our own, and your, children?
- Globally, we all ensured our Education System stood for equitable outcomes where all students' could access resources in order to be successful. That globally, we wanted our Nations' children to love learning, to be happy and to be safe. That their social, emotional and physical wellbeing was just as important as their academic. What kind of world would this create?
- All of this preoccupation with standardised testing leads to Nations' of people who are unable to problem solve and create, have no creative capacity and no desire for being entrepreneurial? Even worse, who are solely competitive with self esteem that is linked to test scores, and who are unable to interact on the basic social levels that our society needs to survive. Then what? Not a pretty picture and not a future I want for my country.
- Lobbyists, rich Billionaires and Corporations were not allowed to have any say in educational reform, and making money from children in the form of Charters and Testing was recognised as what it is - morally corrupt and counter intuitive to what is best for children and our society.
I have many wonderings and #Whatif moments for Education. There are just my top 5 globally speaking.
For now, I am luckier than many of my colleagues across the world. As a Kiwi (New Zealand) Educational Leader, I get to collaborate with other Principals', Teachers' and Educationalists' who are doing amazing things in their schools. I am able to create a climate in my own school where teachers are able to innovate, co construct and use teaching as inquiry to facilitate change and growth. Where educational coaching and self and collective efficacy drive educational accountability.
For now, we do not have Standardised National Testing regimes - we have National Standards (which are a different post in themselves, not necessarily agreed with or without significant flaws) but schools are still, for the most part, able to implement these with some creative freedom. Please note that I use the term 'for now'. With the current trend for countries to reform education with a neo liberal drive that has nothing to do with quality educational outcomes, it is harder and harder to predict what my own Countries educational reforms will stop at. It seems nothing is off the political table. In the meantime, I watch with growing disquiet some of the counter intuitive reforms that are spreading across the globe, and today, I join my colleagues across the world in the important wondering of #Whatif.
With all this in mind, what is your #Whatif for education? Check out the #Whatif hashtag in the search field of Twitter and tweet your ideas.
This is not just an American concern, but a global education concern and as Educators' it is our voices that need to be the ones of reason. Not one of us went into the profession without the belief that we could make a difference for the children in our Nations. Together we can make this new year one that is about equity and success for all our children.
It is only by asking 'What if' that we can start to explore 'Why not' and 'How do we'.