Is it just me, or does it look like 2007 is shaping up to be a pivotal year in the school reform discussion? Just this week, two major events in the print publishing world (which is where 90% of the decision makers still reside) seem to be setting the table for some extremely interesting discussions. If you don’t have a tage named “edushifts” (or something similar) it might be time to start one.

First, Time has named us all the Person of the Year, and in doing so, it’s put some mainstream, traditional affirmation to much of what we’ve been saying in this community for the last couple of years. Some quotes from the article that especially resonate:

“It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.””The new Web is a very different thing. It’s a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter.”

“We’re looking at an explosion of productivity and innovation, and it’s just getting started, as millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity get backhauled into the global intellectual economy.”

Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I’m not going to watch Lost tonight. I’m going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I’m going to mash up 50 Cent’s vocals with Queen’s instrumentals? I’m going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?”

“This is an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person. It’s a chance for people to look at a computer screen and really, genuinely wonder who’s out there looking back at them.”

I like, however, that the lead in is tempered by caution.

“But that’s what makes all this interesting. Web 2.0 is a massive social experiment, and like any experiment worth trying, it could fail. There’s no road map for how an organism that’s not a bacterium lives and works together on this planet in numbers in excess of 6 billion.”

But my, how interesting it will be to create that map together…

The other piece of news this week was the report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, which, according to the executive summary, at least, paints a pretty compelling picture for change. It echoes a lot of what Daniel Pink is writing about creativity and the loss of jobs that can be automated. It echoes Friedman in terms of the global leveling that’s going on in the world thanks to the connectedness of technology. The full, 200+ page report comes out on Amazon on Friday which should make for some interesting holiday reading. From the summary, some quotes:

“This is a world in which comfort with ideas and abstractions is the passport to a good job, in which creativity and innovation are the key to a good life, in which high levels of education–a very different kind of education than most of us have had–are going to be the only security there is.””Too often, our testing system rewards students who will be good at routine work, while not providing opportunities for students to display creative and innovative thinking and analysis.”

“The core problem is that our education and training systems were built for another era. We can get where we must go only by changing the system itself. To do that, we must face a few facts. The first is that we recruit a disproportionate share of our teachers from among the less able of the high school students who go to college.”

And that idea of systems is hammered home. I find this quote especially intriguing:

“The one thing that is indispensible is a new system. The problem is not with our educators. It is with the system in which they work.”

Yeah, talk is cheap. But that’s some heady stuff. And, I know I’m a geek, but on one level it gives me butterflies. Are we on the precipice of a serious, national discussion about education reform? And, if so, is it going to be one with real vision and foresight? And, if so, what is the best way for us to really engage in that conversation? I’ll say it again, if 2007 is going to be the watershed year that it seems to be shaping up to be, we need to do more work in traditional spaces and spend less time blogging back and forth to each other. While this is a powerfully engaging and nurturing environment, if we are going to make our voices and ideas truly heard, we need to start building a grassroots movement “out there,” one that highlights the realities of the world and successes in the classroom through channels that those decision makers (read parents, board members, etc.) are still wedded to.

What do you think?

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