This is a book of educational anecdotes from successfully innovative Canadian schools, with an interwoven thread of commentary about the importance, and the viability, of educational programs that foster not only academic understanding but also the personal skills that prepare all students to thrive in a turbulent, complex and pluralistic world.
Those who accept the authors’ premises will find affirmation, encouragement and perhaps inspiration in the stories and helpful comments on the motivation for, and the logic of, the student-centered constructivist educational programs they describe. Those who do not are liable to remain unconvinced, because the pedagogical commentary is too sporadic to convert traditionalists. But that is not the purpose of this book.
A brief introduction is followed by a rich, eclectic collection of stories about schools and individuals that is sorted into chapters focused on math, creativity, social-emotional learning, technology, choice, parental/community involvement, and creating school systems that both push and support teachers to learn continuously. The stories are the strong focus of the book and the commentary, while insightful, is secondary. In the authors’ words, “Schools of the future exist in the here and now, and in this book we go out and find them.” (p. 8) This they do to good effect. However, the implication in the title that the book may explain (as opposed to illustrating) how schools can prepare our children today for the challenge of tomorrow is not fulfilled by the interspersed pedagogical discussion. I only wish there were a more clearly structured and conceptually sufficient discussion of theory and practice to make the most of the powerful anecdotal substance of the book.
Nonetheless, the stories themselves are engaging and illuminating. The book would be ideal for a study group of educators who wonder if the sort of innovation that they are expected to pursue is actually possible, and it could provoke very productive discussions in which participants might clarify and refine their own beliefs and intentions. Parents who wonder about the motivation for current educational reforms might also find this very accessible book to be an engaging introduction that whets their appetite for more extensive inquiry and gives them productive direction.
Photo: Dave Donald
First published in Education Canada, December 2017
Doubleday Canada, 2017 ISBN: 978-0385685382