About a year ago, I went to see a movie at Cairn University, formerly Philadelphia College of the Bible. If you will grab a pen and paper, I will give you a website where you can go to get more information. You see, I had to travel to Langhorne, PA to see this film because you can’t find it anywhere online. You can’t find it in a video store or at the Regal Cinema. You have to request it, and it will be delivered. The website is mltsfilm.org. This stands for Most Likely to Succeed and it is a film about education. This film includes experts like Ken Robinson, who has the most viewed TED talk online entitled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” It also includes Sal Khan, the creator of the Khan Academy. Additionally Ken Jennings, arguably the smartest man in the world according to Jeopardy. Also present are leaders in industry that all have a problem with our current educational model.
This is a film for everyone…all stakeholders because it doesn’t talk about reform in the sense that we tweak our current system of education, but instead start all over. For students…imagine a school without homework, or grades, or even subjects. For teachers imagine complete academic freedom, no supervisors, no lesson plans. For the board imagine no tenure or collective bargaining contracts etc…
What I have just mentioned contains an awful lot of hot button issues in our current system, but our current system was created for an industrial society that was the state of the art over 100 years ago. Tragically, it hasn’t been relevant to our own students and our own country’s needs even since I went to high school. More and more our success in the future relies on a skill that has weakened for lack of use over the years and that is the skill of creativity. Everyone possesses this skill but it has lied dormant in a world of standards, accountability, and fairness.
Every day this year, I have been teaching a class of Digital Music Composition. The students create everyday, individually or sometimes in groups. Sometimes original pieces or derivative work. When a subject or concept comes up it is part of the creative process and we learn about it, just in time. Sadly, this course will be going away with my retirement. This is sad. Sadder still that when teachers who obviously recognize this need for creativity in the school and have been trying desperately to get funding have resorted to a Pie in the Face fundraising activity to get just the minimum financial consideration.
On April 12 our music students had an opportunity to hear from a guest speaker. His name was Dawson Coyle. Dawson is a young man with Tourette syndrome. He attends my church, was a participant in season 12 of The Voice, and is home schooled. I was curious about how he would respond to the statement made by one of his Voice panelists just before he was knocked out. She accused him of being a singer/songwriter. His answer to me was that he has been singing all his life and writing about what he likes and sharing it with the world for free…and the world paid him back! He never auditioned for The Voice…The Voice found him. It shouldn’t just be homeschooling where this is the case.
Everyone tonight is encouraged to view the 2 minute trailer at the web address I gave you and the entirety of this message can be read again on a blog entitled uncommonsense at michaelmccausland.com In the meantime, I leave you with some comments that some of my students have regarding their experiences in their music classes.
It is hoped by me that in spite of all of the challenges that you currently face, or perhaps because of those challenges, that Buena emerges as the best place for learning in the 21st Century. I thank you.