The artificial constraint of limiting a child’s set of learning opportunities to those provided in a single building (called a school) may soon be a hard limit to maintain. During COVID-19, parents have seen that the only difference between gaining access to one teacher versus another is a Zoom link—as was so powerfully presented by Caroline Hill back in August. This new context has opened the door to imagining what might be possible for their child(ren) if they seek out classes, resources, and supports that exist beyond the walls of a single school.
What parents are realizing is what I heard Peter Block, the author of Community: The Structure of Belonging, point out years ago: “We have outsourced education to schools.” I remember being stunned by that statement. What did he mean? After pondering his statement for a week, I began seeing what he was pointing to. We have created a system that both relinquishes our responsibility as a community and cuts the community out of the opportunity to be part of the formal learning process.
I hope this invites us to pause and reflect deeply for a moment.
The more we reflect on this idea of “outsourcing education to schools,” the more it should motivate us to leave behind an isolated system of education. Rather than placing the burden on schools to bring everything the world has to offer into a single building or forcing educators to bear the responsibility of nurturing our young learners, what if the community collectively shared that responsibility and opportunity?
To phrase that question a bit differently, what if the education system were reimagined to enable community-based, learner-centered ecosystems?
Such ecosystems would network the rich assets of our communities and connect young people to the world in meaningful ways. By design, an ecosystem would honor, include, and support each child, regardless of background or circumstance, in discovering and developing their gifts and passions. This would enable them to take part in reweaving the fabric of our communities while simultaneously enabling them to thrive in an increasingly complex world.
At Education Reimagined, we are shifting much of our attention toward highlighting the importance of this ecosystem work—stepping into the very real opportunity in front of us right now to create demonstrations of community-based, learner-centered ecosystems that can embody the full learner-centered vision for education.
To get us started in highlighting this new focus and bringing to light the magnitude of policy and systems change we are advocating for, I strongly encourage you to read the latest article by Lindsy Ogawa who provides an introduction to this ecosystem work. And, a complementary piece by Katie King of KnowledgeWorks that highlights a new resource their team published in June that details a powerful set of systems thinking principles.
We are excited to continue amplifying voices of this ecosystem work in the months to come, and invite you to reach out with any new questions, thinking, or ideas that occur to you while reading.