Learn to Say Hello
I read an interesting article the other day about Nashville’s educational reforms. It was interesting for two reasons. First, it had been a while since I read an article about Nashville, Tennessee of all places, especially with news headlines being dominated by an orange presidential election. Second, it was a policy change that surprisingly seemed to be a step in the right direction for the morbid American education system. Ever since the No Child Left Behind policy was signed into law by George W. Bush in 2001, American students have been subject to a rigorous and ineffective string of standardized testing not limited to the likes of Common Core and TNReady. No one is a fan of standardized testing and I’d be the first to admit my intense hatred of them. However, this is not a tirade about all the missteps and failures of education. Rather, this writing will focus on the recent developments in Metro schools across the country, starting with the aforementioned one in Nashville.
Funded by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, schools in Metro Nashville have been implementing a vastly different approach to teaching in their classrooms. Instead of the traditional lecture-based system where students are required to sit still in their seats and get hammered day-after-day with a smorgasbord of information, facts, and theories, the new method emphasizes social growth and emotional learning. Interpersonal communication is encouraged as students are taught to proactively engage their peers and teachers, building community values and leadership skills. The program is already showing major signs of success with the students; many of them demonstrate capabilities beyond simple grades and academics. The number of disciplinary cases in schools since the initiation of the program has dropped by a factor of almost 100.
Even Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is taking an interest in social-emotional education, funding such a curriculum at a charter school in Nashville called Valor Collegiate Academies. The reform seems to be spreading quickly into other districts of Tennessee as well as to other parts of the United States.
The Leader in Me
The Metro Schools in Nashville have based their social-emotional curriculum on The Leader in Me, a “whole-school transformation process” operated by the education management company Franklin Covey. Utilizing the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the process includes a literal list of some of the key qualities it wishes to instill in students that is not limited to leadership, responsibility, accountability, problem solving, adaptability, critical thinking, communication, initiative and self-direction, creativity, and teamwork. That is quite a list and, in my opinion, is a lot to promise to schools that choose to implement this curriculum. Nonetheless, schools like the Logan-Hocking Middle School in the state of Ohio have also adapted this framework in their curriculum in the hopes of producing student leaders in all academic fields.
The Future of Education
It is hard to predict the future. What an insightful sentence. It is all too obvious that foreseeing the future is near impossible. But what we can do is picture a certain future and actively work to realize that dream. What I see when I close my eyes is the propagation of socially, emotionally, and academically intelligent education, whether it be through corporate programs such as The Leader in Me or through separate innovations by educators and/or students across the globe. The recent reforms signal the possibility of a great positive change to our standardized and machinated education system.