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"In all of my years sitting in classrooms as a student, in public schools that were highly regarded, I never once produced anything that resembled authentic work or had value beyond addressing a class requirement. My time was spent on an academic treadmill of turning in short assignments completed individually as final drafts -- worksheets, papers, math problem sets, lab reports -- none of which meant much to anyone and none of which resembled the work I have done in the real world. Although I received good grades, I have no work saved from my days in school, because nothing I created was particularly original, important or beautiful.I think his words probably resonate with many of us. I certainly had that same education experience.
Yet when we finish school and enter the world of work, we are asked to create work of value -- scientific reports, business plans, websites, books, architectural blueprints, graphic artwork, investment proposals, medical devices and software applications. This work is created over weeks or months with team consultation, collaboration and critique, and it goes through multiple revisions. The research, analysis, and production involve multiple disciplines, such as reading, writing, mathematics, science, engineering and design."
Ron goes on to outline the importance of schools providing the kinds of mindsets and practices that will help students gain these essential real-life skills, such as learning problem solving, working collaboratively, and to "develop the dispositions to persevere over time with a challenging project and hold themselves to high standards of quality." He calls this "deeper learning."
Ron offers the wonderful example of a first grader assigned to accurately draw a butterfly. His first draft was the crude line drawing you might expect a first grader to create, but with several more drafts and continuing specific, helpful feedback from his fellow students, his final draft looks very much like the actual butterfly. It's gorgeous. And Ron's organization has many more examples of "ordinary" students doing exemplary, meaningful work.
What if this lens of deeper learning were paired with the lens of humane education? Imagine the kinds of amazing real world projects, designed to help create a better world for people, animals, and the earth, students could engage in. Imagine the kinds of solutionaries they could become. Our world needs more people who are persistent, creative, collaborative, and thoughtful in addressing our global challenges.
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