Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Opening Day

The other day, I joined one of my daughter's on walk to the local book store. She had a gift certificate and wanted to select some new books for the start of school. After she selected a few texts to purchase she turned and asked about me whether I was getting a book to read. Even though most of my reading is accomplished on my iPad though the Kindle app, it was difficult to say no and leave the store without a book under my arm.

I ended up leaving the store with Hellhound on His Trail The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt For His Assassin by Hampton Sides.

"Sides follows Galt and King as they crisscross the country, one stalking the other, until the crushing moment at the Lorraine Motel when the drifter catches up with his prey.
Against the backdrop of the resulting nationwide riots and the pathos of King’s funeral, Sides gives us a riveting cross-cut narrative of the assassin’s flight and the sixty-five-day search that led investigators to Canada, Portugal, and England—a massive manhunt ironically led by Hoover’s FBI."

I just started reading the other night (my daughter is reading Diary of A Wimpy Kid) and came across a section in which Sides discusses an annual SCLC conference King convened in November 1967. It was at this conference that King shared a bold plan for the Spring 1968. King wanted to return to the mall in Washington with an army of poor people and camp out in the mall for weeks. It was a grand act of civil disobedience and represented King's belief that America was a sick society in need of “radical moral surgery.”(Sides) According to King, the government was focused on Vietnam, the space race and other industrial-military projects and that the real focus should be on the stark economic disparity between races in America. Sides recounts that King was worried about the country slipping into a race war that would lead to a right-wing takeover of the government and a kind of a fascist state.

To demonstrate King's desire for change, Sides included the following commentary from King:

“For years,” he said, “I labored with reforming the existing institutions of society, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you’ve got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values.”

This may seem like a stretch, but the thought from King shifted my focus to education and rhetoric offered in response to how to "fix" our current education system. Where does the consensus reside? Is it behind reforming the system or is there wide-spread support to revolutionize schools? Taking a line from King I believe we need to witness a revolution of values regarding education.

Now is a perfect time, the start of new year, to begin dramatically rethinking the educational experience. I am moved to share at the beginning of school an old blog post from Will Richardson. In looking forwards to a new school year, Richardson offered thoughts on what he hoped for his kids and the types of questions his kids would regularly answer.

What did you make today that was meaningful?

What did you learn about the world?

Who are you working with?

What surprised you?

What did your teachers make with you?

What did you teach others?

What unanswered questions are you struggling with?

How did you change the world in some small (or big) way?

What’s something your teachers learned today?

What did you share with the world?

What do you want to know more about?

What did you love about today?

What made you laugh?

Being able to answer these questions would reveal much more about what kids understand and are interested in. These questions embody a shift in what we value as part of school experiences for kids. It moves away from an older model to one in which students are part of creative, passion-based, learner empowered global classrooms. Forget being an administrator, as a parent I would love to sit down at dinner and have a conversation sparked by things in my daughter's days that they loved and wanted to learn more about.