A Global University

So if you’ve been following any of my previous posts over the past few weeks, you know that we’ve been interviewing several outstanding educational leaders to be our next High School Principal. The process has been inspiring in many ways for sure, but my favorite part is when we ask them one final question to wind up the interview. The question is, “what is your blue sky vision for a school…no limits on money, resources, staffing, or anything else…you have everything that you need to bring your vision to life…what would that school look like?” Well, the answers have ranged from conservative, to reserved, to traditional, to idealistic, and all the way up to mind blowing and to truly visionary. In many cases however, a drop of cynicism arrives at the end and the answers get qualified with, “but we’re being held back by the traditional entrance requirements and structures of the world’s universities, and until those change, we’re prohibited from really bringing these visions to life”. Well, I’ve been hearing that for a number of years now, and I know there’s some real truth to that I guess, so here’s my idea…let’s start our own university and stop waiting for something that is in many ways out of our control. Bear with me, open up your mind, and take a second to dream…here’s the idea…

 

As you all know, waiting for universities to change to fit these visionary ideas of school is a slow moving and frustrating exercise, which will get us nowhere fast…so I think we, as an international community of schools and leaders and families should set up our own university, or seven, around the world that will allow us to funnel our amazing students into higher level education in a way which can transform how we do school in Grades Pre-K through 12. We’ll call it the GLOBAL UNIVERSITY or something like that, and the entrance requirements will not be focused and fixed on SAT scores, grade point averages, or IB diploma marks…it will be based on how a student’s passion and potential can be used to affect meaningful and sustainable change in our local and global communities. Maybe they submit a project or proposal based on one simple question, “how are you going to use your talents, passion, and abilities to inspire and affect change for our world?”. They are admitted then not because they can do traditional school well, and jump through all the hoops that universities currently require, but because they have a plan to inspire and affect change…a completely different set of entrance requirements (and when I say different I mean better). Think of all of the incredible kids (and we all know several) who don’t test well, or struggle to fit into a vision of what a traditional university student looks like, and who don’t get into the schools of their choice…it won’t be about that anymore…it will be about finding the sparks and passions of each individual student, and providing them an opportunity to develop these in a university setting that sees them for who they are and what they can accomplish…of course it would be a full inclusion university because we all know that every human being has the ability to inspire regardless of the physical or cognitive hand that they’ve been dealt.

 

We could set up universities like this in New York, and Toronto, and London, and Singapore, and Sydney, and Johannesburg, and Buenos Aries (or Quito), and have a pipeline of international students, or any graduating student from around the world for that matter, arriving each year to work together on projects and issues that will immediately change our world for the better. Students will work together across disciplines on projects that need our global attention, and head out into the world on semester or yearly internships, which will put them in real life situations that challenge their perspectives, their ideals, their views on the world, and most importantly that challenge themselves as people. Future doctors working in struggling communities which need medical support…future lawyers working together on human rights cases…future tradesmen and engineers working together to re-build war-torn communities and improve their infrastructure…future educators pushing into communities, schools, and homes to give our less fortunate children around the world the education that they deserve, and what if they do their student teaching in our international schools to support our new vision of school…musicians and artists inspiring and fostering creativity in our world’s children and communities that are in desperate need of color and sound and art…future veterinarians looking at ways to support and save our global stray and abused animal population…and future scientists looking into cures, and alternative energy, and environmental issues, and water and food shortages…seriously…students required to travel out into the world where they are most needed, and graduating with the knowledge that they have been the change that they want to see in the world…we send them off then as graduates to continue their chosen work as true global ambassadors and change agents, with a commitment to community service and affecting change wherever they end up.

 

The best part about starting this university however, is what it could do to transform our world’s schools. It would effectively allow all of our future visions of school to flourish and explode into what we’re all dreaming about. It would break the rusty bars that hold us back because we wouldn’t be focused on grades or averages or test scores anymore, and we could literally tear down the walls and create Pre-K to 12 schools that educate kids according to their passions…true inquiry all the way through. No more solitary, individual, and isolated classrooms, no more single subject teachers or curriculums, no more single grade-level bands, and no more traditional assessment practices. It would be projects, individual and collaborative opportunities, letting kids run wild with their ideas and passions and interests, and we would be facilitating it all the way as educators…feedback, feedback, feedback, and meaningful formative assessment which inspires an open mindset in kids, gives them small successes at every turn, and engages and celebrates them for the creative and unique individuals that they are. We could work together as schools to engage kids on global issues, and get them to push out into their local communities to begin affecting change at a young age. Of course we’d be teaching skills along the way, and providing meaningful opportunities to kids at their developmental level, and giving every kid daily opportunities to read and write and question and research and all the rest…I’m not saying it would be easy to transform our traditional schools into the ones that we’re dreaming about, but it sure would be fun to be freed up to try!

 

Anyway, there you have it…an idea that is fun to dream about in my opinion and one that probably isn’t that far away from being realized. I know that there are several schools around the world already doing things like this, and I know that there are universities that have alternative entrance requirements and opportunities like this already on offer…but…like the principal candidates that we’ve interviewed have indicated, we’re still being held back in a way that makes it difficult for all of us to move forward. So, let’s do it ourselves…I know that it’s not simple, and it will take a lot of money and planning but that’s the easy part in my opinion…money doesn’t change the world, ideas do…and this one isn’t all that bad I think. A Global University that frees us up to transform the traditional model of school…let’s get started! Have a great week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. Oh yeah, if you like this idea, then forward and pass it on…you never know, someone might just like it and look to take it forward…crazier things have happened…at the very least it’s fun to dream, and honestly, if you’re not dreaming as a school or as an educator then you’re doing yourself and our world a disservice.

Quote of the week…

Best way to predict your Future is to create it – Abraham Lincoln

Great Educational Videos– If you follow this link you will find Eight short talks about education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education: Thank you Bret Olson for sharing…Check out Bret’s blog…good stuff http://pushingforward.me/

http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/14/09/8×8-hgse-faculty-share-their-bold-ideas-improve-education

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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