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Time to rethink education: casting a vision for learning and work in the future
Matthew Pozel
Senior Multimedia Writer & Producer, Public Affairs Kauffman Foundation
Matthew Long
Senior Video Producer, Public Affairs Kauffman Foundation

Time to rethink education

Casting a vision for learning and work in the future

It's time to rethink education and shape a collective vision for the future. #RethinkEd #FutureofLearning

In a room full of varied interests, experiences and diverse opinions, students and educators sat with business leaders, advocates, innovators, and critics to find common ground and consider uncommon approaches for education in the future.

"Welcome to Rethink, the most important event on the planet," said Kauffman Foundation Vice President of Education Aaron North to open the Rethink Ed convening in Kansas City. He wasn’t exaggerating. In North’s view, there is no more pressing issue than the future of education and no more chances to get it wrong. He challenged participants – the group ranged from visionaries drawn from across the country to ninth graders who came from their school just blocks away – to rethink education and shape a collective vision for the future.

North said the gathering would launch a broader initiative – a regional education strategy developed with collective voices and consistent engagement to address the needs of today, while activating the change necessary for tomorrow. "We learn together, and we work together, so that we can invest together in the future all our students deserve," he said.

Rethink Ed 2018 | Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

To prompt fresh ideas, Rethink Ed showcased existing bright spots, highlighting innovations rooted in history and those inspired by fresh perspectives. Alongside the story of a technical college in Denver founded a century ago as the Opportunity School by Emily Griffith to offer job training and education "for all those who wish to learn," there was a session led by Michael Ford, a modern architect from Detroit who designs communities along the contours and rhythms of hip-hop culture

Students were asked to imagine ways schools could make the grade for the next generation. Riley Dotson from Excelsior Springs, Mo., and Alex Rivera from Smithville, Missouri, are weeks away from their high school graduation. They both participated in the Northland Center for Advanced Professional Studies (Northland CAPS) to augment their studies with practical lessons designed to prepare them for college and careers.

"We're doing a fast-food kind of learning," said Rivera. "That doesn't work for everyone. We need to move into the direction of individualizing learning plans. Individual learning plans (are) set in place for kids that have trouble, but I think everyone should be on an IEP. You can't teach everyone the same way."

"I come from a family of educators," Dotson said. "My mother is a special education teacher and my grandparents were teachers. My earliest memory of learning how to read was sitting at the kitchen table with my mom. When I think of an education being tailored to me (that) is what I think of."

Rethink Ed 2018 | Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

"I'd like to see a lot more project-based,” Rivera added, “learning from mistakes as opposed to taking a test over it. Teach kids what it takes to be a person in the working world, in the real world."

"If I were to totally rework education from the ground up, I would from the very beginning encourage this air of collaboration, learn to communicate, color outside the lines, facilitate curiosity, and draw from your resources," Dotson said. "From a very early age, I would teach tolerance and acceptance."

Whatever the future holds for education, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The Class of 2018 is graduating from high schools, colleges, and career and technical schools and students are entering a world that is different than the one in which they were educated. Findings published recently by the Institute for the Future and Dell Technologies, indicate that by 2030, when today’s grads are hitting their mid-career strides, 85 percent of jobs available to them don’t even exist today.

"The current system isn't working for many, many young people," said Tony Simmons, executive director of the High School for Recording Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota. "We have to reimagine the next iteration of education. If we really want young people to be prepared for this new economy, we need to break out from the old mold."

"This has to go beyond 20th and even 21st century thinking. We've got to think into the 22nd century to offer opportunities to our community to be able to provide quality education. Be innovative, be creative, and put people in place that have a heart and a passion and a love to make sure that these young people get all that they need to live the lives that they need to live," said Cedric Deadmon, who serves project manager for the Mid-America Regional Council’s KC Degrees, a program to provide support for adults in the Kansas City region who are looking to go back to college and complete their degrees.

"I feel like I could branch out and create anything I want," said Nyvea Cunningham, a ninth grader at Crossroads Charter Schools in downtown Kansas City. "We can turn the world around and make a difference."

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