Futures Salon: “How might we redesign public education?”

Our conversation tonight uses an article titled “Meet the school with no classes, no classrooms and no curriculum” as a reference. We will determine what will need to happen for this school to become the template for public education in the United States.  

Today’s conversation will be using idealized design, where we will start with a”blue-sky” future and then assess what steps need to be taken in order to make this future a reality. This process continues to work backwards towards the present as we reverse engineer that future. Here we will use the Agora school from the article and pose the question “what has to happen for that school model to become the predominant system within United States public education?” we hope to uncover the structural features of the academic system which will need to change in order to reach that idealized future.

What general observations do we have of the Agora school?

Project based learning is an excellent system to seek out and find the knowledge that is needed to reach an objective? A team of people work together on a product/project and real life solves problems in groups.

Agora embraces the physicality and practicality of schooling. Practical applications overruled theory and supported individuals learning at their own pace. The model is “honest” with the modern era, where access available to all and the information needed is able to be reached – where the idea of teaching to a test is a ludicrous idea in comparison.

The current system in the United States seems to focus on those who are purely cerebral, where individuals who are hands on often drop out of the system and find their success elsewhere.

Let us assume it is 2035. The Agora model has become the dominant model for public education in the United States. How did we get there? What has happened?

We would need to move to a system more based on a student having goals and a plan, not set in stone, but aspirational. Individualized plans become a part of the educational infrastructure.

The regulatory bodies which control education eliminate the concept of teaching to the test.

Shared recognition that America is no longer leading the world. Americans are not the top of the education system and we need to improve. A “hair on fire” moment occurs. We see that foreign interest is outcompeting our educational models.

Broad acceptance by teacher’s unions. Education departments have shifted teacher development to be facilitators, not direct instructors.

Local boards of education become less conservative. Public perception has shifted to directly value education primarily.

Artificial intelligence arrives, perhaps shifting education specialty to diverse ways of thinking and adaptability.

What is necessary to reach these systematic changes?

Charismatic teachers, interested in improving the process, supported by visionary leadership. “No sage on the stage but a guide on the side.” Perhaps, unions have been broken. Project-based learning is accepted. Trained to be broad-minded not specialized.

Employers vigorously invested in education, perhaps supported and integrated directly into local boards of education.

As was observed in COVID with distance learning, widespread questioning of the system has changed public perception. Funding and support has changed to match.

The populace as a whole recognizes that it is the end of American Exceptionalism. A lack of education becomes the “common enemy.”

What is necessary for these steps to occur?

A new American consensus emerges. Companies help design the curriculum. An end of polarization has been reached on education. The educational model has been removed from governmental control, where companies now supersede government in leading public education.

A clear cultural shift/element of civic-mindedness occurs among the 1%. This is in fact possible. A huge cultural change in the approval of gay marriage has occurred in the last 20 years.

How did we get to this new American consensus?

Advertisements and social media shift to showing the success of public education. Millennials and Gen Z “influencers” are engaged in the solution directly.

Billionaire/millionaire philanthropy directs towards this model. A major public school system adopts the model and is supported. It spreads rapidly.

Public education, then, becomes the new “moonshot.”

Thank you all for joining us tonight. Very excited for the next meeting!

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