Can Public Education Let Old Ways Die?

My summer has been filled with meditation classes as I work my way through some challenges, including trying to finish my 200 hour yoga teacher training requirements. I have gravitated to classes offered by one very special yogi, Joshua Ansley. I call him special because he is a deep thinker. He doesn’t shy away from hard conversations. He is well-grounded in his own yoga practice so he can lead others. He has built a meditative community via Zoom which is no easy task. He’s also a talented musician who brings his voice and guitar playing into class. What a great bonus.

One song Josh often sings to close a class was sung by actor Bradley Cooper for the remake of A Star is Born. Titled: Maybe It’s Time, and written by Jason Isbell, the song lyrics so naturally fit the work we often do during meditation. Meditation can take many forms and be structured for many purposes. Josh often leads us to think about shedding from our lives what we don’t need–the hurts we carry; or the anger which might still seethe. Those moments of meditation can lead to some very powerful personal change.

And when Josh closes those sessions by singing, Maybe It’s Time, I think of what I need to lose, what I need to change; but, I also think about what needs to change in public education.

Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die

Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die

It takes a lot to change a man

Hell, it takes a lot to try

Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die

Lyrics to Maybe It’s Time

As of March 2020, the world of teaching and learning has been faced with letting old ways die. Maybe it’s more accurate to write: forced to let old ways die. There has been a realization that school doesn’t only happen within the walls of brick and mortar classrooms. There have been calls for curriculum changes, for as the world can see, public education has failed to teach important lessons. Educators need to face the fact that their former students are wearing swastika-ladened armbands. The students they sent into the world continue to manifest hatred of others. There are people with high school diplomas who can’t read critically; people who easily fall prey to propaganda; people who barely understand how their own governments–local, state and federal work.

Yes, this is a harsh criticism; and public education is only one piece of the problem. Too many parents have also failed in their responsibilities. Here in New Jersey, the curriculum is filled with so many political have-to-teach courses that teachers can’t focus on what truly helps students grow into life-long learners. Kids graduate thinking they know answers because they have passed tests. They need to graduate with the knowledge and skill of how to find answers to questions; how to analyze information; how to make an informed decision. For that is truly what life-long learning is about. The questions change over the course of a lifetime; but, the process of understanding new information, and making well-reasoned decisions, is continually grounded in skills, not constricted, learned content.

Maybe it’s time to let many of the old ways of teaching and learning die. The future of the world, I would argue, hinges on such a purging.

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