Andreas Schleicher’s 2012 TED Talk, “Use data to build better schools” was a refreshing approach to go beyond what educators normally report on when it comes to international statistics. Schleicher took the PISA, OCED results and analyzed other factors such as: Application of knowledge to new situations, how countries spend their money on education, and examining policies and how the implementation of those policies carries a message of priorities for the public when it comes to education. If you’re not aware of how the USA pans out in this discussion, you probably won’t be surprised when I share the brief history. In the 1960’s we were on top of the international world when it came to PISA and how we fared in comparison to the rest of the world. By the time the 1970’s came along, we were loosing ground as other European nations became more global. By the 1980’s, we were falling behind not only developed nations but a nation such as Korea that was previously scoring at par with countries such as Afghanistan. Now, Korea has left us in the dust, despite their relatively large class sizes. How did this happen? 1) They pay their teachers more and provide quality professional development. 2) Their school day and calendar is longer, but with the goal of having all children succeed not just the top quartile. 3) Their educational policies prioritize education and their citizens view teachers and principals as a noble professionals. Ironically, they don’t spend as much money as we do. The difference lies in how the money is spent. This ‘talk’ demonstrated that it is possible to have both equity and excellence. Perhaps, we can learn from the Koreans and others who are shifting paradigms in international education outcomes.

Another interesting perspective on international education comes from Eddie Obeng, a former teacher who now operates a virtual business school internationally. His TED TALK,”Smart failure for a fast- changing world” was delivered in lightening speed, filled with analogies, problems, humor, and movement. Obeng reminds us that we don’t have to be reminded that change is here. Linear thinking doesn’t work for our global market. Yet, the workforce cannot seem to keep up with the avid of technological developments that have moved the world at such a velocity that we are left with disjointed systems that are failing. He states that “the pace of learning is flat because the system’s pace of change is overtaking the pace of learning.”

Obeng mentions three important changes: 1) Design thinking must tackle big systems.

2) We need to move to collective action, planning, development and thinking rather than hierarchical, linear, and solitary action.

3) We must change the size of scale to include size and density. Rapid urbanization and population growth have dramatically shifted systems that no longer can sustain these changes.

Our world will never go back to what it was pre-globalization, so the message here is we need to not just keep up,but at the very least synchronize our learning with our systems in place, both in the classroom and workplace.

If there is one TED TALK that resonates with my own personal beliefs and Montessori Education it would be Sir Ken Robinson’s “Changing education paradigms.” Parents, students and friends take a moment right now and watch this TALK because it may validate everything you have sensed when it comes to our educational system. How can we do the same and expect different results? Some people would call this foolish, harsher critiques would name this insanity. We have a system built on an industrial revolution, from the European so-called enlightened intellectuals, whose archaic educational institutions are still prevalent in our public schools today.

Sir Robinson infuses humor and wit to jolt us from the status quo and encourage us to demand more from our policy makers. The clarion call for multi-ages in school, multi sensory learning, cooperative problem solving, global and service learning are all integral components of Montessori education. The tragedy is many of us know what works but are entangled in a system that not only perpetuates mediocracy, but encourages it. The example of the longitudinal study on ‘divergent thinkers’ should admonish us to move from our complacency to advocacy for educational reform. Pedagogues such as Montessori, Value- Creation Education, Waldorf, and Reggio, indeed can change the world and unleash each person’s unlimited potential. The rise of social ills such as Bullying, ADDHD, and mental illness that continues to plague are children can be attributed to an educational system that is stifling and damaging . A system that cuts Art programs, bogs teachers with endless paperwork, while increasing high stakes testing at younger ages is failing our children. Our schools continue to ignore the diversity of our students, perpetuating the same outcomes with students who may successfully navigate this system, but still lag behind our international peers. We must be vocal about our demands and celebrate school such as ours. Despite our imperfections, we continue to provide an education that places the child above any policial means, by our continuous efforts to not just improve but make a difference in our community and the world at large!

“Hand that Nurtures, Loves the World” Blog on Education for Social Justice by Lucy Canzoneri-Golden

This year marks our Twentieth Anniversary of the founding of Coral Reef Montessori.  What better way to celebrate this landmark, than to blog about stories that matter most on our school’s website.  These impressions, comments, questions, and opinions are based on the life experiences that have shaped me as a creative educator whose mission is to use education as a conduit for social justice, in a fluid, transformative matter. Enjoy the ride!

“For these women, reading is a daring act”, a TED talk, by Photographer Laura Boushnak, is a glimpse into the world of 3 women from Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia.  In a little over five minutes, Ms. Buoushnak introduces the names, countries, and snippets of their lives accompanied by visuals of her exquisite photography to tell their stories. Fighting for education against all odds unites all three women together despite differences in their cultural backgrounds, or levels of education. Global perspectives remind us of how far we’ve come and how much more still needs to be done both here and abroad when it comes to equal access for women on all social, economic and political platforms.  As a follow up to this introduction, I would recommend the autobiographical book, “I Am Malala,” written by the youngest recipient of the Noble Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai.

Kakenya Ntaiya, “A girl who demanded school” is a 15-minute narrative of the remarkable life of Maasai young lady who underwent female genital mutilation on the condition that she would be allowed to go back to school.  Her courage coupled with wisdom, intelligence, wit and perseverance led her to negotiate with the elders of her community and challenge established practices such as limiting girls’ education and forcing them to marry after reaching puberty, to sponsoring her education abroad in the United States, becoming a teacher and creating the first school in her community for girls, saving 125 females from a predetermined destiny of genital mutilation and subservience to their husbands. Ms. Ntaiya was speaking to an American audience of predominately white people neither to illicit pity, nor judgment but rather to encourage each person to have the determination to stand up for one’s beliefs and challenge the status quo.

In order to have a better understanding of the region, I highly recommend the book “The Challenge For Africa,” written by the late Noble Peace Prize Winner, Wangari Maathai, founder of The Green Belt Movement. This book provides a brief historical background, and explains particularly how the remnants of European colonialization have left its avulsions on the continent.  In addition, she boldly criticizes the archaic, patriarchal beliefs and customs so embedded in many of the African cultures that have devalued women and consequently, kept the continent from progressing more efficiently. Both Ms. Maathai and Ms. Ntaiya’s movements’ successfully supported the initiatives of the Millennium Goals and now the Sustainable Goals set forth by the United Nations. Their transformative works are examples of service to their communities through education in action.

“New data on the rise of women” by Hanna Rosin was a lesson in reinforcing the concept of looking at data with a critical eye.  Since beginning our Doctoral program at Lynn University, we’ve been told you must read articles, data and research carefully and methodically.  Whilst, the intent of the talk was to somehow shift our mindset to realizing this is no longer a ‘man’s world,’ Ms. Rosin’s overly optimistic premise, was full of out dated sources, and in my opinion, manipulation of data.  For example, she never mentioned that her study was conducted primarily with White, middle class women.  In fact, her entire presentation was from a ‘white feminist’ perception.  The realities of women of color are quite different from the story she was telling.  Finally, there is a plethora of data that is more recent and that includes women of all races. For example, when comparing Hispanic women to White men in 2015, we still see a huge economic disparity, where the median hourly wage for White men is double,$24 an hour, as compared to the $12 an hour Hispanic women earn (www.pewresearch.org). I want our future generation to investigate facts and not just accept information as true or accurate.  “Stay Woke!”