Thursday, September 01, 2005

Taking a Light Saber to Tired Old Teaching

George Lucas knows why the classroom needs to be transformed to better engage students and encourage creative productivity. This New York Times article describes his experiences in school: "A bored, dreamy student, George had struggled with spelling and needed to repeat math the summer after eighth grade. His high school art teacher, looking over George's drawings of space soldiers, admonished him, "Get serious." George's father refused to pay for him to study illustration in college, hoping instead he would take over the family's office-furniture store."
And this is what he has done about it:"Out of his own uninspiring education, the conviction that his abilities were ignored and throttled by conventional schooling, Mr. Lucas, 61, has assiduously yet quietly built a foundation devoted to education reform over the past dozen years.
"This is no exercise in designer charity. The George Lucas Educational Foundation has 30 full-time employees, a $4 million annual budget and a headquarters on the founder's Skywalker Ranch here in the Marin County hills. It publishes a magazine(Edutopia), produces documentaries, supports projects in both public and private schools, distributes an e-mail newsletter and maintains an extensive Web site,"

The Lucas Foundation "gets it," and the reforms, which I mentioned in a previous post, are even more vital now than when George Lucas spent time in the classroom. For now, as Marc Prensky said, "Every kid at some level has something really engaging him. And so they understand what that means and I think that's one big difference. So they're looking now to find engagement in school." Unfortunately, in too many ways, school remains fundamentally the same.


Darrell said...

In a galaxy far, far away, students are already provided with numerous ways of expressing themselves and using thier own gifts and interest to enhance and bring meaning to their education. Here, we are just starting to realize the importance of providing students with opportunities to build on what they find interesting along with maintaining a solid foundation necessary for life in our society. George Lucas was thought to be wasting his time with his drawings and ideas and yet he has become an example of great success; not because of the money he makes but because of the joy he gets from what he does. I wonder how many students we, as teachers, have steered away from what makes them happy in our desire to make them into what society thinks will make them happy. Finding ways to allow students to connect to their education is a good way to start ending that, and the American Studies Project is an excellent start. I look forward to seeing how it works.

Wesley Fryer said...

Getting teachers to change is really the key challenge here, teachers and administrators. Our era of high stakes testing makes so many people who should know better actually believe that more testing and more pressure leads to better educational outcomes. I am sickened by how much pressure there is on kids today in school: certainly we need to learn to take tests and compete for success, but we also need to have fun and learn that the very act of learning can be a joyful one. I don't see much of that in today's schools. I am an Edutopia subscriber and also applaud the educational mission Lucas is on with this foundation.

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