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Arthur Levine on 21st Century Schools

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March 07, 2012 08:32 pm

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Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and former president of Teachers College, Columbia University offered his thoughts to “The Answer Sheet” of the Washington Post. In his editorial, he addresses the aging model of schools coupled with their decreased effectiveness.

Levine emphasizes that the current school model is a product of the industrial era, resembling the assembly lines in that nearly every school consistently binds students to classes of 25 to 30 people. Students attend school for 13 years, each lasting 180 days per year, while taking five major subjects for predetermined lengths of time. Levine critiques that this model is obsolete, placing priority on the length of the process rather than the outcome.

“We know that as individuals we can’t even learn different subjects in the same period of time,” he writes. “The current system is analogous to taking your clothes to a laundry and having the proprietor ask how long you want them washed. That doesn’t make sense. We want them clean, however long it takes. Yet our traditional schools focus on wash time — on process, not outcome.”

Instead, Levine advocates the need for 21st-century schools, designed to overcome the failings of the current education system. These new-aged schools, he asserts, focus on outcomes, on student learning rather than a set amount of teaching. In order to achieve this new form of educating, the 21st-century school would be individualized, tied to each student’s strengths, weaknesses and needs, rather than the uniform approach of today.

Levine insists that there is growing bipartisan support and advocacy for new-aged, digitally infused education in the American classroom. Experts, scholars, educators, and parents are cautioned to prepare for an immense change in how our children are prepared to become global citizens of the future.

“The current model of schooling is anachronistic,” Levine says. “The school of the 21st century, which promises to serve our children and our nation far better, is coming.”

To read Arthur Levine’s editorial, click here.

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