I read Will Richardson's book titled Why School in a fragmented way, as I read most things since becoming a mother 13 years ago. You know, over a salad at my desk at lunch, sitting in my car waiting for one of my boys at school or football practice, or lying next to my 7-year-old son on his bed as he reads of the adventures in Captain Underpants, allowing me to digest a sentence at a time between his questions about what 'triumphantly' means, or 'salivating.' I've never really gotten used to reading in this broken up way. I usually have to reread sections to remember what I was reading about, or remind myself of context. But seriously, reading Richardson's ideas was such an engaging experience, even my jumbled reading sessions didn't quell my building energy around the ideas in this critical look at the way we do school.
Richardson offers the idea that we can do school either Better or Differently. I agree. Right now most of the focus in education is on how to do exactly what we do now, but to just do it better (i.e. add technology and group work). Of the two models, I can promise you I could have skipped reading the "Better" section of his book (no offense to Mr. Richardson) because as an educator I live and breathe that model every day. I'm living it and practicing it. I know what the new push for "better" looks like. Richardson's ideas to do school Differently (emphasis on capital D), though, that's good stuff. Not even bedtime questions regarding Captain Underpants can disrupt my flow on that topic. By Differently, Richardson means DIFFERENTLY. Take all of our current practices for how we prepare and deliver lessons, and scrap them completely because those old methods and ways of thinking about students and learning are antiquated, and will not prepare students to navigate the world in which we live. He suggests that the world we live in now has new demands and a new set of rules for navigating it. The world we live in now demands a new definition of literacy. Richardson quotes psychologist Herbert Gerjuoy, "the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write. The illiterate will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." [Incidentally, Richardson also mentions Michael Wesch, professor at Kansas State University, in his book, and over the weekend while working on another project I stumbled across this You Tube video by Michael Wesch, created in 2007, that dramatically depicts why our schools aren't suited to our students' needs anymore.]
Richardson goes on to explain six unlearning/relearning ideas for educators to embrace so that we can help students prepare for a world with different literacy demands. His six ideas, when listed together, look like an odd, and maybe alarming, set of rules in a kindergarten classroom: