What NASA can teach us about education reform | Matt Candler

September 13, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski

One way to think about the state of school
today in the U.S. is to ask the question, what did school look like a hundred years
ago? And lets say we found someone and brought
them in a time machine forward from a 100-120 years ago and started to show them what our
world looked like. We would probably have to slow down and explain
the Internet, maybe modern jet travel, maybe our mobile phones, but if we walked them into
your kids school, my kids school we wouldnt have to do that much explaining. That would instantly resonate with them as
something theyre familiar with. And to me thats one example of how little
we think about how school could change, how school should change and specifically what
pieces of it could we reimagine, not just for the future but even for today. if you look in Websters Dictionary you will
see the word institution in the definition of school. We think of it as such, when in fact what
we all care about, what I care about from my kids, what I care about for other folks’
kids is not the building and the institution and the structures, it is their relationship
with other human beings, with their own emotions, with the world as it is rapidly changing around
them. And so, what gives me a lot of hope and what
Im really proud of at 4.0 is that we have created a relational and communal way of thinking
about school. And when you do that it doesnt take long for
great ideas to start oxygenating the conversation. If you really create enough trust for people
to say yes I actually want to see a prototype of your learning space and it doesnt have
to be perfect, it doesnt have to look like school and it doesnt need to take more than
about 30 minutes, if you can create enough dialogue for someone to say, “Okay, I think
I can do that, I think I can create that for a handful of students.” Suddenly youve created a space that is no
longer institutional its just a few human beings in a space together talking about what
they want to learn and what they can share. And that to me is really liberating because
most of my professional career has been spent believing that I must be the most certain
one in the room, I must be the most confident and secure knowledge holder, that I must deliver
knowledge to children. And for my inner teacher to be along for the
ride embracing this new version of me in my participation and a vision of school that
is not institutional and not predicated on my certainty as an educator but on my willingness
to go into uncertain places to shine a light on what might be a horrible idea and a bad
30-minute experiment, but to say Im going to participate in that as a curious human
being with other curious human beings, that is what school should be and thats what school
could be. And so, for me what excites me most about
the future of school is that, what if? What if it could be about humans relating
to one another not humans trying to make these institutions less institutional. Heres why I love the conversation about NASA
and what it might teach us about school, and specifically getting to Mars. Lets talk about Mars and the moon. The vision is that humans will make that trip. And so, what you see in NASA is this real
tight focus on something weve mentioned before about human beings being at the core. And so, the paradox of NASA where all the
cool tech is is that at the core they consider getting humans to the moon and to Mars safely
their mission. And that to me to my inner teacher thats a
revelation because NASA is able to take that same sense of purpose and intensity about
serving humans that my inner teacher thinks about his students, and yet theyre somehow
able to create a culture where you better fail. Like the idea of NASA is that we have to fail,
everything has to break while were here on earth because we cant afford for it to break
once a human is in that ship. And that to my inner teacher is such a radical
concept. He has fooled himself, the whole construct
of how we train teachers fooled me into thinking that I can actually make it all perfect and
that going live with my students means no failure at all. And that’s something I really love about studying
the methods, the culture of NASA is that somehow it has become part of that culture for everyone
to embrace the idea that my job is to fail as quickly, as cheaply, and as publicly as
possible within NASA. My inner teacher just is so hungry for that,
he is so desperate to be able to live and breathe in that kind of culture because frankly
he was never taught that. He was taught you cant screw up and if you
do, you screw up on a Sunday night doing your lesson plan because once you get to school,
its on. And all that weight is on you. And I think weve just done such a disservice
to our kids, to families, to teachers themselves by saying failure is not an option. At NASA failure is the only option. You have to push through all that failure
to get to the place where youre ready to carry human cargo. They keep the humanity sacred while embracing
the importance of experimentation and of taking risks and of gradually working our way to
a future that might be a lot brighter through experimentation and failure. And that to me is a really beautiful thing
to try and create for schools and people in schools.