In Creativity, Leadership and a Challenge for East Asian Education, Roger Shouse argues that creativity should be embraced and leadership, whether formal or informal, should encourage creative measures in expanding the learning of students. He encourages teachers’ notions that it is not only important to study the great works of leaders and innovators, but wants students to become these things within their classroom. In order to do this, leadership must embrace the notion of creativity, allow it to happen in the classroom, and model it themselves to incite change within the school environment.
In opposition to this, Shouse calls for a complete dismantling of schools in their current state in Deschooling Twenty-first Century Education arguing that the public school should not be used as the band aid to fix societal and economic problems through a controlled and malleable environment. Instead, he calls for a clear observation of what it means to learn and ways a society can make this experience available to individuals. By decentralizing control of education, students and parents will be given a much broader educational plate from which to choose. Schools will no longer exist to indoctrinate youth into the socially acceptable understandings that are dictated by a central elite, but instead will be able to tailor their learning to interest and desires that drive them.
Because politics and money are involved with schooling, there will ever be a complete divorce of education from centralized control. The easiest metric by which to gauge successful implementation of “school” is through the use of statistics to measure student learning. This tool is then used to judge the quality of an education, and tied to money and power. The adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) shows this by offering a perceived fix on the problem of education in the United States, and the tying of money to the adoption of the standards.
However, if one takes the two offerings from Shouse, and adds them to understanding that there will always be central control over schools, there is a hope for reform that can strengthen the learning environment for students. Creativity holds the key to making this happen, and deschooling offers the roadmap on how to do it. If teachers use CCSS not as end point, but the jumping off point for learning, the deschooling model can begin to develop. By teaching past the test, as opposed to the test, teachers can create a constructivist learning environment with a CCSS scaffold. By loosening the physical constraints, such as seat time in class, physical attendance, and teacher-led instruction, leaders within a building can allow teachers the room for creativity needed to turn schooling into learning. Pathways to graduation, including badges and internships, will engage students, and true dedication to music, theater, physical activity and the arts will allow student to learn not only what they need to live, but also the reasons why they should want to live. This will develop passion in both the learner and teacher, as educators become student’s guides in their learning.
Although Shouse offers a key and guide to how schools can move beyond schooling to offering learning opportunities, it will ultimately fall on the shoulders of leadership to make this happen within buildings. A willingness to let go of traditional notions of what school should look like and embrace new concepts and ideas that truly prepare students for their life after school will be the key to success. Even with federally mandated curriculum, schools will have the ability to make these changes. As leaders embrace learning models that expand student choice, students will engage in their learning, and the shape of that learning will be more organic, in direct contrast to the prepackaged education program that currently dominate the educational landscape.
In conclusion, the ideas of Shouse and the current push for centralized control of curriculum can work in tandem to create a learning environment that truly engages students. If leaders embrace the creative idea that education is messy, failure is a step in success and that learning no longer resembles what was seen in 1950, true progress can be made toward deschooling twenty-first century education.