Column #25, posted October 19, 2006

Cash Those Chips

It is always nice to visit with people who have a point of view different than one’s own.

I have been promoting my new virtual high school, called VISTA (Virtual International Science Technology Academy). I am talking to folks who want to sponsor it, host it, or run one or more of the curricula in their own schools. The proposed curriculum, which we have begun to design, consists of four one full year experiences in this order:

-- Scientific Reasoning
-- Health Sciences
-- New Technology
-- Engineering (aerospace focus)

These are story-centered curricula. Students work in teams in virtual apprenticeships with experts producing deliverables that get increasingly complex throughout the year. No classes. No tests. One curriculum per year -- complete four of them and you graduate. Ideally there would be hundreds of curricula to choose from but we have to start somewhere so I chose those four.

When I talk to people who might be interested in radical education reform I always ask what curricula their communities might need so we can think about how to produce those as well. The idea that every high school should be more or less the same offering of the same potpourri of algebra, American history, and Charles Dickens is just absurd, so I ask what they need in their world.

The other day I visited a school for Native Americans in the Southwest. After some discussion of their needs, we came up with the following alternative to my alternative:

Year 1: scientific reasoning
Year 2: alternative energy issues
Year 3: land management and forestry
Year 4: casino management or entrepreneurship or tribal governance

The current high school curricula were conceived in 1892. Time for new ideas.

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