Written by David Houle and Jeff Cobb
Published by Corwin Press, April 2011
In the spring of 2010 I delivered a speech at a major K-12 education conference where I presented my view that K-12 education needed to be transformed in America. After the speech the Senior Acquisitions Editor of Corwin Press asked me if I would like to write a book based upon the speech just delivered. After quickly saying yes I recruited my good friend and education strategist Jeff Cobb to co-author the book with me which we then wrote and revised last summer and fall. Corwin just published the book in April.
Since the publication date I have received tremendously positive feedback from numerous professionals in the K-12 education arena. Many agree with me that the time for on-going finger pointing, doing the blame game and wringing hands over how America is becoming less globally competitive educationally is over. The time for sounding alarm bells is passing. The time for saying 'my way is the way' is over as well. What is now needed is to let go of al the legacy thinking of the 19th and 20th centuries and create a vision of what 21st century education must be. That vision fully embraces transformation, as nothing else will be enough. The definition of transformation is: a change in nature, character, shape and form".
One of the points in my speech in 2010 that caused Corwin to express interest is that I challenged the audience of principals and superintendents that if they knew what the future of K-12 education should be they would be wrong as it would inevitably be based upon something that currently exists or current best practices. We must completely reinvent education around an entirely new vision for this century. In our book, Jeff and I quoted Wayne Gretzky on why he was a great hockey player: " I skate to where the puck is going to be". We can no longer cast past structures, thinking and processes from the past into the future.
A new vision is needed. That is what we have provided in "Shift Ed: A Call to Action for Transforming K-12 Education" . We set forth a vision of 21st century education and ask educational professionals and those concerned about education to come together around this vision.
Jeff and I have created a companion website to the book: www.shiftedtransformation.com
We hope this website will through time become a resource for educators, a community for new thought leaders who are committed to initiating the transformation essential to provide the education our children need and will need for this new century. We look forward to these thought leaders contributing to the blog we have launched on the site. We ask you to visit the site and to send it on to anyone you know who has an interest in education.
The Introduction to "Shift Ed: A Call to Action for Transforming K-12 Education" is below and also on the website. The videos to the right are also from the web site. If you are part of a non-profit or education system there is a link on the site to purchase directly from Corwin as they will work with you for large orders of the book. If you are simply an individual interested in transforming education in America you can click on the link to the right to order a copy immediately.
Jeff and I have already spoken to education groups. If you know of any group that might want to hear about the Shift Ed vision for 21st century education, please have them contact us. We are passionate about launching this transformational vision of education.
In the revelation of any truth, there are three stages. In
the first it is ridiculed. In the second it is resisted and in
the third it is considered self-evident.
The book you hold in your hands is about the future of education. Specifically, it is about the future of K–12 education in the United States. We started this book with the premise that this part of the education system is broken and needs fundamental change. In recent years there has been a growing sense of failure, frustration, and acceptance that what exists no longer serves our children, our society, our country, and our place in the world. This was our departure point. The structures, ideals, and systems of education in the United States were all created in prior centuries and have not kept up with advances made by the rest of society.
There has been much debate about what to do, where to go, what matters, what is missing, and what is wrong. There have been many wonderful books and articles written about what is needed for education to provide value in this new century. There are many great thinkers who have led the conversation to help us all see what isn't working and suggest what might be done to improve education. Our purpose here is not to compete in any way with these thought leaders or the work they have done, but rather to join the conversation more from the perspective of the ordinary citizen, parent, and businessperson to provide a vision that is as broadly accessible as possible.
We are now entering the second decade of the twenty-first century and the second decade of a new millennium. We are transitioning through one of the most dynamic periods of change in human history—a time we call the Shift Age. With our growing ability to connect, communicate, and collaborate globally, the speed and scope of change seem to increase daily. But as society races ahead, our approaches to educating its youngest members—and the resources we dedicate to this purpose—seem to continually lag behind. In this book, we share with you our view that nothing less than transformation will succeed in changing this situation. We cannot repair, reengineer, or retune: we must reinvent.
We begin the journey toward transformation with an overview of how we evolved to our current state and a brief look at the many signs that the legacy education system we have inherited is now failing our needs. There is no denying that problems of education today are huge and we discuss a number of dynamics that we must address head-on if we expect to achieve fundamental change. But the goal of the book is not to get bogged down in pointing out current failings and challenges. We move beyond these to offer our vision of why transformation is necessary, what it looks like, and key areas we should focus on to lead it.
We are also fortunate to be able to offer in these pages the visions of a range of stakeholders—from architects to school administrators to business people—who were kind enough to share their thoughts on the future of education. Some of these visionary comments are interspersed between chapters as brief "Change Visions." Ones we have collected from individuals currently working as administrators and teachers within our school systems are grouped together in Chapter 6.
There are two major undercurrents that run throughout the ideas offered in the book. The first is that transformation is inevitable. With or without us, the vast array changes that new technologies have created in the past decade will push us toward a sort of phase transition, to borrow a term from physics. In a phase transition, there is a moment when matter suddenly shifts from one form to another in a way that seems almost magical. Think, for example, of water suddenly becoming steam when the right temperature is reached. We see an analogous shift coming in the world of learning and education. The question is whether we will be ready for the shift—whether we can help to lead and guide this coming change or whether we are simply overtaken by it.
The second undercurrent is that we already have much of the knowledge and capability we need to lead the transformation. Just as steam is fundamentally still water, transformation does not materialize out of thin air: by definition it is based on existing forms. Already there are numerous bright spots and pockets of change across the educational landscape, but we have yet to assert our collective will to make a true shift toward transformative change. Indeed, while there is widespread discontent with the state of our current educational system, there has yet to be widespread engagement across the general public in asking and answering the questions critical to making things better. It is time to engage. It is time to make an active, collective choice for change.
We offer this book to you with the hope of inspiring that choice and the action that will follow, for first and foremost this book is intended as a call to action, as a catalyst for creating the new vision of education for this century. It is time for that vision. It is time for transformation. It is time for Shift Ed.
Please join us.