Like most young people and cats, I’m hopelessly curious and easily enticed by things that look different, move oddly or smell like a strange new breed.
Under 10, we call this wonder! North of 50, the adults in the room often call this foolishness.
I confess that my inner fool is still alive, and pops up like a jack-in-the-box when triggered by some fascinating discovery or new development -- which brings us to the year ahead.
As we gaze at the dawn of 2017, the view from my window is about as different, odd and strange as I've seen in my lifetime.
There are unusual storm clouds on the horizon, and many of our peers are huddled in corners bracing for the cold winds of change. The level of uncertainty about the immediate future is high, even among those who are expecting good things.
It turns out that the President-elect’s positions are so mercurial that only a fool would attempt to predict what educators can expect under the incoming administration. With that preface, I offer seven potentially foolhardy predictions for the New Year. Let’s jump in…
Seven Predictions for 2017
1. Traditional education voices will have to work harder to be heard in 2017. During a recent press conference, Randi Weingarten, president of one of the teacher's unions, casually mentioned that she had reached out to President-elect Trump and had received no reply. We could all hear her silent WTF? (What Type of Foolishness...)
Trump was somehow finding time to tweet, she lamented. I could smell the residual funk of a person coping with being dissed by the incoming leader of the free world.
Yes, there are good reasons to believe that some of the education's most influential and prominent leaders of the past will have diminished influence on the new education administration. The old guard will have to turn up the volume on their voices to be heard --they will.
2. Our collective growth mindset will be tested. The three “ UNs,” uncertainty, unpredictability and unprecedented change, will require new levels of flexibility, adaptability, and growth from educators at every level.
Those opposed to the changes will need to find new ways to resist. (Civil disobedience is so 1960s.)
Those who support the changes will have to lean in and move faster than ever before to keep pace.
Those who never bought into the whole growth mindset thing in the first place will be free to continue doing whatever people who are not into growth do with their time.
3. It's "show and tell" time. We will make great strides toward settling long-raging education reform debates. The conditions now exist to push through education strategies that have sounded good in speeches but performed marginally in the real world. Questionable reforms like vouchers have remained popular among believers, partly because they’ve never been broadly implemented. In four years we'll know if vouchers are a savior, a charlatan or a punchline.
4. Political correctness is dead (at least in its current form). President-elect Trump has unleashed a new level of blunt discourse, and it’s unlikely anyone will be able to put it back in the box. Many students will be coming to school with edgier, more unvarnished language imported from the dinner table and family edCamps led by a drunk uncle.
This no-holds-barred, “up-in-your-grill” communication style will be associated with “keeping it real.“ Those who lament the use of “unkind” or “Insensitive” language will be viewed as whining, Pollyannas, who are out of touch with the real world. To respond effectively, those who believe that words matter will need to craft new ways to make that point-- and we will.
5. “Business as usual is over.” These were the words of Sean Spicer, the incoming White House Communications Director, during his first public interview. He wielded the phrase to bludgeon to death the notion that the old rules apply on any level. He went on to say that “there is a new sheriff in town.”
If we’ve learned anything about the new sheriff, it’s his passion for ignoring the rules, bending the rules, and changing the rules. Given the nomination of Betsy Devos, it’s easy to predict that the rules for American educators are about to change. The big question is how “unusual” will our education system become and how fast?
6. Trump’s education priorities will be caught between a rock and a hard place. The tension between doing what is in the best interest of kids and doing what is in the best interest of employing educators has been an ongoing subplot in education. Will a Trump-led DOE put jobs or kids first? The difficulty of balancing this conflict will be right up there with bringing peace to the Middle East, getting Mexico to pay for the wall and putting Brad and Angelina back together again. In the end, I predict Trump will just declare success and bend reality with a tsunami of late night tweets.
7. Educators are going to do things they’ve never done before. “Never let a serious crisis go to waste,” says Rahm Emmanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff. Rahm believes that in every crisis is an opportunity to do things that were not possible before.
For many educators, the election of Donald Trump is an existential crisis. But, while large numbers are still working through the five stages of death, a slice of the education community is seeing and seizing the new opportunities hidden in the changes ahead. The old voices may be muted by the new administration, but emerging voices will embrace the change and seek ways to make the most of the next fours years. These voices will rise meteorically and will achieve things that could never have been done under the status quo. This is the good news.
The view ahead is uncertain, unprecedented and likely chaotic. Only your personal God knows what’s going to happen in 2017 and so far mine hasn’t tweeted any clues.
That said, it’s probably unwise to bet your career, your children’s college fund, or 50 cents on any of these predictions.
About the only thing we can safely say is that despite the pervasive fear of academic Armageddon, we are living in the most exciting times in the history of education.
Historically, change in education has occurred at a glacial pace. Today, education is being disrupted and driven forward faster than ever.
Virtually every country in the world is rethinking education and, we are all swapping notes!
Separately, advances in technology have opened all manner of new possibilities for teachers and students around the world.
-- Classrooms in the Canary Islands are collaborating with NASA and SpaceX. “Who’d a thunk it?”
-- Self-learning is more viable than ever. Both teachers and students are using technology to learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it.
-- Walls may be going up on our southern border, but classroom walls are coming down in every country.
-- Right now, this minute, those who are passionate about education have the opportunity to make a “Yuge” difference in the lives of more kids, in more places than any other time in history. Want to share your learning with students in the outback? There’s an app for that.
Yes, we are headed into crazy, confounding times with extraordinary possibilities. But despite the uncertainty, unpredictability and unprecedented potential for chaos, I am foolishly fired up about the future of education. I have a front row seat, and I’m looking forward to seeing how creative, committed educators are going to do what they have always done -- turn lemons into lemonade. UNward!