The 6 Essential Features of a 21st century Education

In his introduction to John Gatto’s book “Dumbing us Down-The Hidden Curriculum of compulsory Schooling”, David Albert lists Dan Greenberg’s six consensus points which he says leading educators, business leaders and government officials agree are the essential features of an education that would meet the needs of society in the 21st century.

After reading them, think about whether the school system you are immersed in provides these features. Whether you are a teacher or a student- whether you have children or know of children at a school.I would argue a democratic-self directed learning approach is best for this. I have been spending the last few months working on setting up a new school in Montana, USA which is based on a free-democratic approach. A school where self-directed learning is the key driving force. Influences include Sudbury Valley School (of which Dan Greenberg was a co-founder in 1968) and Summerhill in the UK.

Our school is called Glacier Lake School and we are currently enrolling for a March/April start.

Six Consensus Points- Dan Greenberg

1. As society rapidly changes, individuals will have to be able to function comfortably in a world that is always in flux. Knowledge will continue to increase at a dizzying rate. This means that a content-based curriculum, with a set body of information to be imparted on students, is entirely inappropriate as a means of preparing children for their adult lives.

2. People will be faced with greater individual responsibility to direct their own lives. Children must grow up in an environment that stresses self-motivation and self assessment. Schools that focus on external motivating factors, such as rewards and punishments for meeting goals set by others, are denying children the tools they need most to survive.

3. The ability to communicate with others, to share experiences, to collaborate, and the exchange information is critical. Conversation, the ultimate means of communication, must be a central part of a sound education.

4.  As the world moves toward universal recognition of individual rights within a democratic society, people must be empowered  to participate as equal partners in whatever enterprise they are engaged in. Students (and teachers) require full participation in running educational institutions, including the right to radically change them when needed.

5. Technology now makes it possible for individuals  to learn whatever they wish, whenever they wish, and in the manner they wish. Students should be empowered with both the technology and the responsibility for their own learning and educational timetable.

6. Children have an immense capacity for concentration and hard work when they are passionate about what they are doing, and the skills they acquire in any area of interest are readily transferable to other fields. Schools must thus become far more tolerant of individual variation and far more reliant on self-initiated activities.

Whether you agree or disagree with these points, pass this on to someone else who might be interested in discussing this important issue. I believe passionately that the current public (in the USA) and State ( in the UK) education systems do not go anywhere near meeting these six points.


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