This week, I was inspired to take action to speak up about the changes needed in our education system, all based on one film and one individual dedicated to spreading its message.
On November 17th, an email arrived in my inbox from my Noble Impact facilitator, Chad Williamson, explaining an opportunity to meet with former venture capitalist and education reformer Ted Dintersmith in my Noble 201 class and see his movie called, “Most Likely To Succeed.” Also attached to the email was a Washington Post article about Ted, who is the film’s executive director, entitled, “Not Bill Gates: Meet Ted Dintersmith, An Education Philanthropist With A Different Agenda.”
When I read the article, it gave me a sense of joy and happiness. Someone was bold enough to take a stand and say, as Ted did, “The U.S. education system should be re-imagined into cross-disciplinary programs that allow kids the freedom to develop core competencies through cross-disciplinary, project-based learning.” Ted wants these changes to become a reality for all schools in America, and it needs to start with us, students.
Our education system has been on an assembly line policy since I’ve been around. In fact, our education system hasn’t changed since 1893, for approximately 122 years ago. It worked before — why change it now, right? Well, there are many reasons, actually, the first of which is that students aren’t engaged, aren’t excelling, and aren’t prepare for life after school.
Ted visited my Noble 201 class before the “Most Likely To Succeed” film screening in Little Rock. His talk inspired me to want to learn more about him, because I believed in him. He also believed in me and has high hopes for the future. Ted’s talk also inspired me to write a letter to give to my school’s principal, dean of students, and all of the high school teachers at eStem High School — where I am a student — about how we can help change the education system.
Ted covered many of the common problems that occur in most high schools: The excuses of teachers saying “we can’t [do X, Y, or Z], because we don’t have enough time to cover the whole book;” the common disconnect with students and their schools; the disconnect of parental involvement; and also the mismatch of student skills and the emerging jobs of the future.
After school and Ted’s visit, the only thing in mind was watching his movie and understanding more about his creative school policy. I even went an hour early just to see what was happening before the screening started.
What the movie can offer is extremely important because it covers a variety of problems we see in traditional schools and even in charter schools. It begins with the director’s kid who feels that school is a waste of time and that there is no purpose. The director noted that prior to making the film, he often stressed that his children get good grades, so that they can get into better colleges and eventually land better jobs.
That sentiment, in fact, is heard everywhere we go, and even my parents feel the same way. But it’s getting harder to find a job that is sustainable and enables a person to be self-sufficient. The early jobs that we get in college — like a cashier or a Walmart greeter — are disappearing. Furthermore, the jobs that we’ll end up getting 5-10 years from now aren’t yet created — basing our education on the jobs that currently exist, then, is a bad strategy, since many of those jobs are dying.
Taking risks is what this world may need. Being bold instead of safe is needed to see a better future, because what happens when students are presented with these new-economy jobs? Will we greet them with confidence, or will we shutter in fear, because we aren’t prepared? How will we respond?
As for me, what I took from the movie is that observing, reflecting, documenting, and displaying are key skills that schools should strive to teach kids. Kids who are eager to observe their surroundings; kids who can reflect on their projects, their roles, their plans for their teams; kids who share their experiences and believe that anyone can do what they do; and lastly kids who are excited to exhibit what they’ve done and say to anyone “Yes, I accomplished something and I’m proud of it” — those are the kids who will succeed.
Overall, this movie isn’t meant to just be put in libraries or on your movie shelf. This movie was meant for communities of people who are eager to change the way they see education today, to collaborate with each other and come up with a solution to bring back to their school and implement.