Fast Company magazine this month has an interesting story on corporate involvement in public education, centered on the High School of the Future, an experimental public school in Philadelphia funded in part by Microsoft.
I’m somewhat ambivalent about allowing big business to direct the course of American education. It’s certainly good that elements of the larger community are interested in improving teaching and learning.
On the other hand, K-12 education should not be all about training “a future generation of Redmond cubicle warmers” or building “a nation of pitchmen”.
However, if this approach at the School of the Future is more than just a nice pull quote, it’s a great start.
The School of the Future is not just a high-tech overlay on the traditional curriculum – it represents a wholesale tearing apart of that traditional curriculum. The three Rs are gone; science, English, math, writing, and the rest are being taught not as separate “disciplines,” but as a set of interdependent tools for understanding real-world problems.
And they seem to understand just how irrelevant an NCLB education will be when students graduate into the real world.
Under George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind policy, the educational focus in America has been squarely on coaxing students to perform to preset standards – on teaching to state tests, which is essentially the factory model with a fresh coat of paint. From the School of the Future’s perspective, that strategy is nonsensical. Teaching the three Rs in a vacuum, with no attention to practical skills and application, is like handing a kid a golf club, without explanation, and expecting him to become Tiger Woods.
The article is long but well worth the time.