In the US, we spend a lot of time in our educational discourse talking about the wrong things. NCLB, state-standards, content obsession or skills obsession or 21st century anxiety or panic about the corruption of our system by wingnuts pushing a 21st century agenda which either works or doesn’t work, depending on your point of view (I am a firm 21st centuryer, in the interests of full disclosure). We have to remember that schools are not factories (even when they look like them) and they’re not prisons (even if they function like them) and their purpose is not profit or servicing the economy or turning out compliant/complacent zombies. They are also not test centers, meant to create reams upon reams of data that measure our children’s achievement of 19th century standards (provided they even tell us that, which, in all likelihood, they do not).

In the 21st century, effective schools will be those whose communities have developed clear, meaningful, powerful, transformative missions that place their goals and objectives for their students squarely in the school’s local context while being mindful of the inevitable statewide, national and global contexts. This is, in part, why the charter school movement has been so successful. Lots of well-meaning people do not want their children to be ground through a politicized, state-mandated curriculum that has little to do with stimulating a child to develop into a whole person and lots to do with complying with dubious objectives. This is also why great independent schools are great. They are clear about who they are and what they want to accomplish.

I want schools and their faculty, students, parents and broader community to commit to being driven by mission.

If I were to start a school, here’s what its mission would be. At SchoolNEXT, we believe young people learn best by doing. As citizens of the 21st century, we learn by applying time-tested wisdom to the opportunities presented by the transformative now. We respect ourselves and seek to live spirited, balanced lives. We dignify all members of our school, local, national and global communities and embrace our interconnectedness and interdependence as members of the human family.

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