On putting the cart before the horse

Us? Life is constant reinvention — online life, much more so!

I had been planning to walk through Kieran Egan’s “Learning in Depth” idea last week. Learning in Depth (LiD) is a powerful idea — a strong contender for a “teensy tweak that changes everything in schooling” award, if such an award exists.

(Sidenote: why the hell doesn’t that award exist? Tech billionaires, take note!)

But then a chance comment by a friend ruined everything. (Thanks, Vicki…)

The friend, speaking in a wholly different context (we’re working to start an atheist church together, but that’s another story), criticized product pitches that don’t solve previously-felt problems. She said that a terrible (and terribly common) way to pitch an idea is: “here’s-this-thing-I-invented-and-here’s-why-you-desperately-need-it!”

A much more effective way — and this shouldn’t be news to anyone — would be: “If you’ve been struggling with x, this fix may help you resolve it.”

And then I realized that I was about to pitch Learning in Depth without first identifying the need for it.

And then I realized that we’ve been outlining this school without first identifying the big problems in American education that it will attempt to rectify. What are the primary things we want this school to do?

What are our overall goals?

I realized we’ve been unintentionally inverting the customary arrangement of steed and tumbrel: that is, we’ve been putting the cart before the horse.

Well, no more!

Before we go an inch further:

what do we really want this K-12 school to do?

I invite you, beloved reader, to offer your own goals for such a school in the comments. Don’t hold back: let’s get out all the possible goals we care about, and then decide on which trump the others.

Identifying these “big items” will help us make other decisions — say, whether to go public, private, or charter, or whether to have grades or badges or portfolios.

Presumably, this will be one of the most important conversations we have, so ideate away!

Brandon Hendrickson

Seattle, WA