Giving into despair is to admit defeat and to abandon hope for a bright future for students, teachers and ultimately our country. We cannot allow all the sacrifices of those who came before us to be in vain. The best way to honor all the blood, sweat, tears of our predecessors is to forge ahead bravely and do what needs to be done. Despite all the problems facing education there are reasons to be optimistic.
The Good News: This New Year already shows signs of promise!
- No Child Left Behind came to an end in December of 2015 and was replaced with The Every Student Succeeds Act. This event was celebrated by many, but not all. Among the throngs of celebrants was the NEA (National Education Association). The NEA has been working hard to end the contentious old law. Click here to read why. To find out what has changed with this new law and what remains from the old, click here.
- Public acknowledgement of the teacher financial crisis is spreading and legislators in some states are taking actions to stem the flow of teachers leaving do to high cost of living and inadequate pay. North Carolina, a state who has seen many of its teachers leave, is now offering subsidized housing to attract and retain qualified educators. Click here to learn more about whats happening in the Tar Heel State. California, Florida, New Jersey, and Virginia are also offering similar incentives. This link provides more information on what is happening nation wide as well as some pros and cons on the issue.
- The Rising Popularity of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in public education: This development is promising on many different levels of which I will expand on below. In brief, STEM classes offer students hands on exposure to fields that hold tremendous promise in this and future economies. STEM holds the potential promise of revitalizing our domestic manufacturing, medical fields, and even future space exploration. Click here for more on the rise of STEM.
What do you think of the above developments? Any progress is positive in my mind. Something I would like to see change this year, but seems unlikely, is the public perception of teachers and the profession at large. Our culture seems to be obsessed with scandal and dark tales and the main stream media is all to happy to give their viewers an endless supply, including negative stories about teachers. I earnestly believe people would rather hear about all the good teachers day on a daily basis, from feeding and clothing those in need, finding ways to breakthrough to students with learning difficulties, to literally saving lives. Occurrences such as those happen far more often than any scandal or impropriety. Perhaps if we all demand that the media covers 100 positive stories for every negative they report on things may change, but I doubt it. One can still hope right?
Next we will look at some other trends and big ideas in education and beyond. The “end beyond” is important because there is a strong symbiotic relationship between Main Street and the classroom as you will soon see.
Trends and Big Ideas for 2016 and Beyond
- Tech Trends That Could Supercharge Education: From virtual reality to 3D printing read about the 5 tech trends that are emerging here.
- Maker Movement Transforming Education: If you click here, you will find an article from Newsweek titled Maker Movement Reinvents Education. It may be from 2014, but the Maker Movement is still picking up steam across the country. As mentioned above, the Maker Movement appears to have inspired the proliferation of STEM education programs in classrooms across the country. The Maker Movement can be seen in towns and cities in creative hubs called Maker Spaces. The Maker Movement and STEM are part of the DIY (Do It Yourself) impulse that is already credited for returning small-scale manufacturing and production to towns and cities throughout the US. I would say that the DIY, Maker, and STEM impulses are also part of the renewed passion for and celebration of all things local, which is great for Main Street. On a lager level, the Maker Movement has been hailed as the potential vehicle for bringing about the new renaissance of American and global manufacturing. Click here to learn more. For more on the Maker Movement and related issues click here and here.
- The Greening of Schools and Support of Nature Based Learning on the Rise: Ever since the publication of Richard Louv’s Last Child in The Woods, schools and communities have been getting a bit more green. Louv’s books, lectures and the organization he helped create, the Children and Nature Network, have been doing amazing work to promote the importance of developing strong bonds with the natural world. Click here to learn about their 7 best stories and review of 2015.
- NPR’s list of 6 Education Stories to Watch For in 2016: Click here to learn about NPR’s watch list.
I think we live in an exciting and promising time that is not without fear and uncertainty, but I am optimistic. Our country has survived wars, droughts, outbreaks, and economic depressions and seems to shine more brightly when faced with pressing challenges. I believe good things are happening in education and throughout our country, but more work needs to be done.
Thank you for reading this post and the others in this series. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below.