Interesting things can come from the unscheduled hours of a flight delay. A bout of bad weather during a layover between Austin and Washington D.C. gave me the gift of several free hours to catch up on long-neglected articles and podcasts. Before I knew it, I was musing about the original founding of the Blyth-Templeton Academy model and about the questions I asked then and still ask myself about how education ought to work in order to best serve kids.
Here’s an exploration of some of the questions that I have been asking and answering as the BTA team pioneers a re-conceptualization of education in the 21st century.
My airport reverie began as I re-watched the Sir Ken Robinson's 2006 TED Talk entitled “How Schools Kill Creativity,” a video that was and has been hugely formative for me as I worked to develop the business plan that would become Blyth-Templeton Academy.
This video was with me when I founded Templeton Learning and again when I partnered with the existing Blyth Academy system to form the first Blyth-Templeton Academy in Washington, D.C.
It’s clear that this video has been a source of inspiration for others as well: it has over 53 million views. Truth be told, I’ve watched this video a couple dozen times, including as I sat there in the Dallas airport, and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only person who has done this!
I encourage every single one of you to find the 20 minutes to watch (or likely rewatch) this video. If you do, you'll find that one of his big intellectual and rhetorical punches lands in the first few minutes:
"All kids have tremendous talents and [our education systems] squander them pretty ruthlessly."
A bold statement, but one that I have come to think is absolutely true.
What Could or Should K-12 Schooling Look Like in the 21st Century?
My own original "Quality, Affordable Private School" business plan that came into being in 2010 was born from many fundamental questions, but arguably the most formative of these questions was, “what could/should K-12 schooling look like in the 21st century?”
This question was rooted deeply in my experience of seeing the most talented people I knew leave the teaching profession, a phenomenon that troubled and discouraged me. Why wasn’t the education system enabling the best teachers to thrive and enjoy their work?
But it was Sir Ken and his TED Talk who helped me articulate the real problem I was seeing with mainstream education and who inspired my desire for concrete action.
"We have a huge vested interest in education partially because it’s education that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp. Children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. No one has a clue what the world will look like in that future, and yet we’re meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability is extraordinary."
Yet we continue with this dated education paradigm that was designed in and for an industrialized age...
The Education Environment Is Changing
Our experience running Blyth-Templeton Academy in D.C. to date shows us that the majority of parents and students in the market are looking for things that have been and always will be important in an education environment: safety, high quality academics, and character formation.
However, we are also seeing and looking ahead toward a distinct shift, where education models incorporate and offer these old priorities, but do so in a new setting and environment that looks very different from the current traditional mainstream offering. These new settings focus on offering the student freedom to grow and develop in more personalized, less structured ways.
And this is why I appreciate Sir Ken’s vision so much. I believe his thinking is a bellwether of what's to come: parents driving educational choices for their children that ultimately put their children more into the driver's seat of their own education.
I personally couldn't agree more with this approach, and again, I think Sir Ken nails it in his 2006 TED Talk:
"I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new human ecology. One in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the same way we’ve strip-mined the earth—for a particular commodity. And in the future, it won’t serve us. We need to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children."
Here at BTA, that’s what we are focused on doing, re-thinking the fundamental principles on which we’re educating children, but without sacrificing safety, quality academic programs, and character development along the way. In fact, our model is reinforcing and strengthening these outcomes even while letting students learn and lead with passion and creativity.