As schools, our choices shape the footprint that we leave in the world, as experienced through the lives of our graduates. We talk much about mission and its importance, precisely because mission is important: mission is our footprint.
As Kevin Kelly writes in What Technology Wants, "We have latitude in selecting the defaults of our mass education, so that we can nudge the system to maximize equality or to favor excellence or to foster innovation. We can bias the invention of the industrial assembly line either toward optimization of output or toward optimization of worker skills; those two paths yield different cultures. Every technological system can be set with alternative defaults that will change the character and personality of that technology" (184).
Does your school actively create its footprint, or does it let external forces create it? Does your school strive to optimize output (highest SAT scores, highest AP scores, college placement sans pareil), or does it strive to optimize the skill set of the soon-to-be graduates so that they can be adaptable and successful learners for the rest of their lives? Perhaps it's a bit of both at your school.
Some schools, however, aren't clear at all on what their mission is, and they're suffering, especially in this economy. Their choice, actually, their absence of choice in terms of articulating and celebrating their mission, can be seen easily by numerous parties: parents, students, civic leaders, you name it. Those schools look very much like North Korea, as viewed from space at night:
Notice that North Korea is almost entirely dark. There is a speck of light, signifying some potential for creating something, but, for the most part, the absence of light is remarkable, compared with the countries surrounding it.
Where is the innovation? Where are the "bright lights" in that school? How will that school keep pace with others in its market place?
Choice matters. Dark or light?