The Financial Times ran an article on Monday that is germane to the conversations we're having in independent schools right now. As author Linda Anderson writes of Richard Lyons, Dean of the Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley, he "recently announced an overhaul of its [Berkeley's] core curriculum."
Think about how such an announcement would go over in your school community. It would take a carefully planned approach, not unlike a mixture of strategic planning and development-style campaign feasibility studies.
"Sweeping changes have been announced that emphasize creativity, experimentation and problem-solving as well as experiential learning. Behind this revamp are four defining principles, the bedrock on which the redesigned program stands: question the status quo; confidence without attitude; being students always; and thinking beyond yourself."
Naturally, for independent schools, the question remains: how do we marry our extant curricula with these emphases? After all, we cannot abandon entirely what we have; we need a framework, and most of us will want to remain faithful to the tradition/spirit of the school, while acknowledging the needs of our graduates.
As Lyons says, what is needed is "a person who can think outside, who says there has got to be a better way to do this and I am willing to step outside that boundary."
Our brick walls in independent schools will be the usual suspects:
(1) will we compromise our admission standards in order to attract this sort of student?
(2) how do we grade students in this redesigned system?
(3) will we lose our "perceived ranking" in our community?
(4) will our SAT/ACT scores be affected adversely by this approach?
Success will come from visionary leadership, new mission statements as tools of guidance, and a cultural reshaping of independent schools from the inside-out. It will also come by means of a willingness to confront the aforementioned brick walls (not an exhaustive list, to be sure). This effort will be people- and time-intensive, and it may represent the defining moment of an early 21st century headship.
As Lyons says, "The world feels different from the world of my parents. It seems to me that as I look out into the future, there are [many] unsustainabilities in the system."