I’m a new blogger and I have a writer’s block. It is not the “block” one typically associates with blank paper. It is, in fact, the opposite. This block is like trying to stream live video on very low bandwidth. The video stream of my mind pushes so much data into the narrow “pipeline” of my keyboard that the path clogs and the hourglass of “wait time” begins to spin. You see, I’m extremely concerned about the compelling need to reform our nation’s schools. Our national economic security depends on bringing our schools into the 21st century. In my small circle of influence, I have championed the progression of the 21st century skills movement for 25 years. I became passionate about the need for school reform with the first national call for change - A Nation at Risk in 1983. I have followed and reacted to a plethora of urgent “change mandates” for a quarter of a century now. I’m clearly focused on the need to upgrade schools and I’m serious about it. Now, given a blog forum, I’m eager to “push” every challenge and each potential solution into the blogosphere and I’m limited by one text stream!
I’ve decided to “beat the block” by letting the stream flow with one of the most thought-provoking statements I’ve heard in my experience with school reform efforts. It happened just last week as I attended a conference of instructional support specialists representing school systems throughout the U.S. During an administrative briefing, the topic shifted to our schools’ need for leadership in implementing the 21st century skills. The speaker, armed with data and rationale, made the challenge real. Her admonition: “Failure to implement the 21st century skills in our schools constitutes malpractice.” Simple. Bold. Clear. Finally…the bottom line!
Malpractice, according to FreeAdvice.com is defined as:
“… a professional's misconduct or failure to use adequate levels of care, skill or diligence in the performance of the professional's duties that causes harm to another. In order for malpractice to be actionable, injury, loss or damage must be suffered by the person who retained the professional's services, or those otherwise entitled to benefit from or rely upon the professional's services.”
How many times have I walked through schools and left with a heart heavy for the students who are being harmed by omission of the 21st century skills? Too many children have passed before my experience deprived of opportunities to learn academic content in relevant, contemporary contexts. Too many, who are entitled to a 21st century education, sit passively in rows at the expense of learning to self-direct, innovate, collaborate and demonstrate responsibility for their own learning. I’m beyond being perplexed at the mindset that stubbornly determines to “beautifully prepare students for a world that no longer exists.” (Eric Hoffer) I find myself aligned with a brilliant woman who had the courage to call it what it is: MALPRACTICE.
I Googled “malpractice” as I began writing this blog entry. A lengthy list of links to “medical malpractice” appeared. I looked around with trepidation as site after site defined malpractice as “negligence by omission of accepted standards of practice that cause injury to others.” I can’t help but wonder how long our profession can sustain malpractice. How long will stakeholders forgive institutional tolerance for “omission” of 21st century skills? After twenty-five years of public policy, reform and change mandates pleading for upgrades to schooling, I can’t imagine continued patience. I suggest that the day of “educational malpractice” is upon us. Let every educator at every level examine “omission” of 21st century skills in their own practice. This is serious. Upgrading the seriousness of the 21st century challenge might be just what is needed to upgrade education's sense of urgency.