David Brooks recent column, “Why They Fought,” describes a bygone era of bloodborn patriotism and passion for a cause, a time when men (and women) faced unthinkable circumstances at Gettysburg, firm in “a belief that they were born in a state of indebtedness to an ongoing project” [the noble Union called the United States]. It is certainly hard for us to imagine this pervasive sense of mission in a day when YouTube talking puppy videos garner more attention than hard news.
We rarely witness such shared sense of mission among today’s citizens. I do, however, witness a safer but parallel passion among educators whose ongoing project is re-visioning education. These teachers converse, blog, and adamantly promote reframing education into 24/7, global, student-centered learning enabled by today’s technologies. I do not see any teachers willing to die for the cause (thank goodness), but I do hear more and more articulate voices joining in to explain the vision, punctuated with viable examples and thoughtful questions. They converse and retweet in #edchat on Twitter. They convene at EdubloggerCon, Hackeducation, EduCon, or the many unconference venues where they can find like souls. They host discussions like Deeper Thinking w/ EdTech: Do we know it when we see it? They inhabit endless blogs and social networks. They proffer articulate spokespeople whose posts and interviews occasionally find their way into mainstream media (whatever that means). Some of these spokespeople build second careers offering keynotes and inspirational talks to paying school districts. Some are passionate enough to stand alone offering TED Talks. They can be heard in nearly every session at ISTE, and certainly in the Blogger’s Cafe. But most of them (us) are simply teachers who enter the fray every day, willing to continue the passionate construction of true learning communities where our students can find their voices and become self-directed, motivated learners for life. Though the unthinkable circumstances of our “battlefield” do not include anything like Gettysburg, the circumstances of teaching grind and disable many.
Thinking Teachers simply don’t give up. They/we have a sense of “indebtedness to an ongoing project,” the metamorphosis of education from an industrial era model to an information era model of thinking, questioning, and learning anywhere, any time — for life. Given the pace of change in public policy and in education’s institutions, this sounds like a pipedream. But I don’t hear anyone giving up. If you have not heard the voices and you care about the future of education, you owe it to yourself to listen more carefully. Start at #edchat and build your network to learn about this ongoing project. What history will say in 150 years, who knows.
Happy Independence Day.