We are a team of visionaries and educators working to transform education.
Transforming education is the mission.
A child born in 2018 who lives a reasonably lucky life will still be alive, at the age of 82, at the turn of the next century. Indeed, there are probably millions of people across the globe right now who will be alive at the dawn of the 22nd century. We can’t say what they will be doing with their time, of course. The future’s secrets are the future’s to reveal to us. What we can say is that they will have lived through the better part of the 21st century, shaping that future based on their values, perspectives and, most importantly for our purposes, their education. Regrettably, most of those millions will have been educated according to principles and modes of thinking laid down in the 19th century. Students educated in schools trying to conform to well-meaning but counter-productive “back to basics” legislation find themselves graduating from high school (if they do) without the skills to thrive in college or the workforce, let alone build a life of meaning and dignity in a world of rapid change that demands of them talents, skills and work that their schools haven’t trained them to express or do. People by the tens of millions in industrialized societies resist critical thinking, believe what is demonstrably false, reject reason, set their life course based on nonsense and undermine themselves and their societies as a result. They do this because education hasn’t given them the tools or the capacity to do anything else.
It is no wonder that our societies are demonstrably failing at their most basic tasks; our schools haven’t given enough people the agency, confidence, perspective and hope to even want to tackle these problems, let alone actually get down to work. Broken people without the ability to fix themselves aren’t going to be much help fixing the social problems we face here at the beginning of the 21st century.And the problems we face are only going to get more complicated.
But I passionately believe that we are in fact at the beginning of a Golden Age for humankind, if only we have the courage to seize the opportunities presented by what I call the “transformative now.” That work begins with an appropriately radical re-visioning of the entire process of education. In this book, you will learn what that approach looks like and by steps come to understand our vision of a transformed system of education which will create citizen-learners who will go forward to transform themselves and society. Our approach is predicated on five concepts.
First, we believe that our youngest learners learn best by working directly with nature, making powerful connections between their hands, their heart and the natural world. Not everyone has access to the deep forest, but everyone has access to the natural world in some way. Our schools are ones where students work with the real world in real ways.They get their hands dirty.They learn to see the world with all of its wonder and mystery by being in it.They don’t sit in classrooms all day, each doing the same thing.Their world isn’t intermediated by technology. Rather, they play in trees, read in meadows, learn to whittle and carve, do math in the field like an engineer might, play games and learn to listen to the rhythms of their heart.They come to see themselves as part of a greater whole for which they are ultimately responsible.
Second, we reject the siloing of subjects of study. Rather, we identify seven archetypes of human thought and work and through a thoughtfully designed curriculum, encourage students to develop personalized mastery in these seven archetypes. By their design, these archetypes flow into and out of each other.When the student has demonstrated mastery in these seven valences, we certify that the student is ready to begin their adult life with the skills, habits of mind and perspective that will allow them to lead and master whatever faces them.
Third, we believe that each child is a universe and deserves our complete and total commitment to their success. We know that what one student needs on a particular day or at a particular time might not mesh with what someone else needs.
Fourth, we know that the world grows ever more interconnected and that parochial, nativist, nationalistic or chauvinistic approaches will tend ever more to divide us and consume our energies in unproductive ways.We envision SchoolNEXT as a network of schools with thousands of local campuses all informed by the same philosophy of practice and curriculum framework.
Fifth, we live in a world that increasingly understands that the brain’s complexities must be harnessed if we are going to provide our students with an education that allows them to become their best selves.We are committed to school where ecstasis, a scientifically-built and sustained program of flow-enhancing brain wiring, forms a principle basis for how we motivate and develop young people. Learners who can find their way to their flow state will inevitably become self-directed and passionate about what they do.
— Jon Cassie