Turner School of the Global Village

28 Feb

Over the weekend, I sat in my parents living room, munching on bagels and quiche, sipping a nice hot coffee, and listening to some of the most influential educators in my life discuss myriad things: ranging from mosquito nets in Africa; to who will finally copyright the photon, making solar energy a truly valuable enterprise; and the recent loss by my high school boys basketball team.  Such is the life of the son of educators. As my parents friends were preparing to leave, a very close family friend who happened to be my high school history teacher leaned over and said: “Geoff, I love your blog. But your entries…they’re too long.”  He’s right.

Two weekends ago, my parents travelled to Missoula, MT where my dad was a presenter, largely because he had recently won a contest in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The contest was to design a proposal for the ideal college/university of the 21st Century.  You can read the full text of my dad’s excellent, winning proposal here.  As an homage to both of these men, as well as another huge influence, here it is: my proposal for the ideal high school serving struggling students in the 21st century (in 500 words or less) “The Turner School of the Global Village.”

In a society where only 53% of urban teens graduate from High School, and only 71% of all students graduate, a drastic shift is called for in the way we attempt to educate those left behind by a system that neither tries, nor wants to accommodate their unconventional needs, strengths, and deficiencies.  Turner School of the Global Vilage will target students who are 15-17 < 10 credits and have been identified by their school (due to drug use, court involvement, or home environment) as being at risk to drop-out.  TSGV will utilize unit-based experiential-learning programs to immerse students in cultural engagement, learning activities, and assessment of the broad knowledge-base necessary for today’s cosmopolitan world. With the goal of equipping every graduate with the self-awareness and intellectual capacity to choose for himself the most appropriate college or career path to contribute to society, TSGV facilitates throughout three years, 8 units of group study (a 3-3-2 cycle), and two independent summer internships.  During the first cycle (“Immersion”) students will take part in three intensive study programs within the NYC area.  In the first unit students will study the history/culture of NYC (with particular focus on arts, literature, demography, and cuisine of the city); followed by a unit on the ecology of the tri-state area, and one on the economy of the tri-state area.  Within these intensives, students apply the skills learned in traditional history, literacy, math, and science courses to a broader understanding of their environs.  The first cycle culminates in presentation of cohorts portfolios to members of the school, their families, and surrounding community.

Following a summer internship within the city that the student has pursued and secured with the help of their staff advisor (all members of staff from teachers to support and admin. will act as advisors) students enter the second cycle, “The Greater Village.”  During the three interrelated but unique units of this second year, the students expand their horizons to include three diverse experiences.  The cohort spends one unit studying the inner-workings of the American Government in Washington, DC; another studying and fully participating in the development and traditions of a unique small community (such as the Amish of Pennsylvania, or fisherman villages in Maine); and a final unit ensconced within one of the school’s partner colleges auditing individual college courses while continuing their curriculum as a group.

In the final cycle, students will be part of a study abroad program, “The Global Village and Beyond.”  Students will travel each year to a new cosmopolitan area (and surrounding communities) of international intrigue and import.  Here they will explore a new, foreign culture and history, while simultaneously engaging in the community’s present concepts of learning, and research (as well as social and economic programs.)  In doing so, students will be exposed to the global realities of the 21st century world they will be asked to unify and lead in the years to come.  A unit may include staying with host families, or in small groups at schools, churches, or other community establishments.  Learning will include researching the social effects and economy of the diamond trade in an African nation, or the economic and social tumult in Greece.  The second unit of this final cycle will be dedicated to the students developing a multi-media capstone, to be presented to a large community of peers, family, and scholars at the graduation ceremony.  Students will work closely with an advisor, and a small team within the cohort, known as a Peer Review.  The capstone project will include a lengthy research dissertation, personal reflection, and letter to one’s own community, as he sees it upon graduation.

In addition to the radical shift in curriculum delivery, the greatest aspect of the socially-situated units lies in the understanding that all members of the TSGV community are also fully incorporated members of their host communities during this time.  If members of a host community are expected to take part in chores, meetings, activities, or traditions, the students of TSGV have the same expectations.

TSGV and its supporters recognize that students who struggle are often stygmatized by adults who do not understand the students’ culture and life experiences, providing curriculum and an academic approach that neither values the students’ experience, nor allows them access to material that seems increasingly detached from “the real world,” and struggling students’ needs as they develop into productive members of society.  By valuing all communities, cultures, and individual life experiences equally, the school will facilitate each student’s navigation of his needs and strengths, academically and socially.

Supported by an array of research from James Gee’s studies on experiential learning, to the concepts put forth by Sugata Mitra, and ideals regarding democratic learning communities of scholars, introduced by  Paul Goodman, the creators and education facilitators at TSGV believe students learn best when they direct their own learning and study while submerged in new environments where learning new skills and content is both necessary as a tool for survival and an inevitable byproduct of adaptation and understanding. Every student who graduates from TSGV will be equipped with the wealth of knowledge of self and society to ensure their continued success as responsible citizens of their neighborhoods, societies, and the Global Village.

Jeez, 869 words. Sorry guys. I tried!


One Response to “Turner School of the Global Village”

  1. geoffreymschmidt February 28, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    A couple people have already inquired where in the world funding would come from for this. A few things: first, grants and lots of them. Second, you’d be amazed how much money is thrown away on asinine programs within public schools as they fail the very students I am targeting (let alone the excess money in charter schools doing the same.) Third, as we are not only servicing students in a specific (lower) economic class, our tuition would be somewhat “socialist” in nature. Student’s would be asked to “donate” a percentage of their parents’ annual income (I’m no economist, but let’s throw out 8% as a reasonable percentage.) Most importantly, as active members of their host communities, students will be contributing in ways that defray cost of room and board. For instance, if they are boarding on an organic farm in New Zealand, perhaps they are defraying the school’s room/board fare by contributing X amount of labor hours per week, etc. Lastly, rich people…I need rich people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: