In the twenty years I've been teaching high school, I can't tell you how many times I've heard from supervisors, curriculum specialists and the like that we should strive to make real world connections in our classroom. Duh!
The problem for me is that this very suggestion reveals a much deeper problem. Why are we creating an institution that we implicitly consider to not be part of the "real world" in the first place? Why is the real world something out there to which we need to make connections?
I just got back from EduCon, and I just finished reading Dennis Littky's book, "The Big Picture: Education is Everyone's Business", so this problem, and the well demonstrated solutions to it that schools like the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) and The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center (The MET) show are possible make it hard to be satisfied with the broken educational system we have now.
To make things better, we need to:
- Stop treating "subjects" like mathematics, English, science, social studies, etc. as isolated islands of learning to be studied separately in 50 minute blocks of time punctuated by the ringing of bells.
- Bring the community into schools by bringing schools into the community. Schools should be a place where students, parents, and folks from the community meet, hold events, learn, teach, design, build, sing, dance, and play.
- Have the curriculum address real problems and work toward real solutions to those problems.
- Serve children "one child at a time" by having student's educational goals develop directly out of the learners interests and needs. A "one size fits all" curriculum actually fits almost no one.
- Make our schools into democratic communities where our members learn to be creative, active participants in a democratic society.