Two threads came together for me recently. In talking with Colin Seale, the keynoter at our recent conversation on educational equity that we titled “Beyond Learning Loss” (video available here), I was reminded that of everything we’ve tried in education in the past–exactly nothing has achieved equity at scale. Nothing. (I’d argue that integration movements in the mid-to-late 1900s were our best advance, but we didn’t get far enough.)
In the conversation we’re featuring today, one of our guests, Ira Socol, who has taken a historical look at education, explains that our system and many of its features were originally designed to filter students out at every level. In other words, from an historical perspective, our system is not designed to lift all students. Its tradition is not equity. This doesn’t mean that educators haven’t been striving to upend those original intents for decades–but they are fighting against a system that still carries many of those historical elements: to filter, not to elevate all. In this context, Colin’s reminder shouldn’t be a surprise.
I interviewed Ira alongside Pam Moran. The two are co-authors (with Chad Ratliff) of Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools. Their book is a motivating read, blending research and anecdotes from their own time as the leadership of Albermarle County Public Schools (Pam as Superintendent, and Ira as the Chief Technology and Innovation Officer), for people who are tired of the filtering traditions of schooling. I found that it puts forward a thesis about what is necessary to rebel against those antiquated designs still baked into our system: to radically embrace innovation requires saying yes to innovation all the time, and inviting students to be at the center of it. This mentality is about creating a pathway for every single child. Enjoy!
This interview is a part of our What Now? video interview series on education.
What Now? asks: how should we navigate through this pandemic, and ensure a more prosperous Michigan in our recovery? Click the icon for other videos in this series.