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What Does the School of Your Dreams Look Like?

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson shared his vision with some California teens.


Plenty of educators and policymakers have big ideas about how to innovate and transform America's education system to meet 21st-century needs, but have you ever asked yourself what the school of your dreams looks like? It's not an easy question to answer, in part because it's tempting to start making a mental list of all the reasons—lack of funding, school district bureaucracy, political bickering—why change can't happen right now. But at a recent conference in California, world-renowned creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson had no hesitation about sharing his vision for a dream school with representatives from a middle school press corps.

To start, the teens took the money issue off the table by presenting Robinson with a hypothetical blank check—which they promised to sign after he answered their questions. Their first question was pretty easy: What would he call his school? Staying true to his belief that the purpose of education should be to explore ideas, Robinson said he'd name it "Explore Academy." As an advocate of intergenerational learning, Robinson also said his campus would be open to students of all ages.


Although Robinson believes great teachers are important, he would also bring artists, scientists, and business leaders into the school to teach students and learn new skills from each other. "A really great school would be a mix of all the elements you'd find in a good community," he said.

Instead of the typical 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekday schedule, Robinson's dream school would be open late into the evenings and on Saturday, and would feature a wide range of learning activities, including increased time for dance, theater, and other art programs. The students appreciated Robinson saying he isn't an advocate of piling on homework because he believes it’s important for students to have a break from their studies. He added that he'd scale down the importance of testing in favor of more practical applications of knowledge and skills.

Sure, some of Robinson's ideas do seem like a dream. For example, it's pretty tough to imagine a school staying open till 10 p.m. in an era of draconian budget cuts. But one of most valuable parts of his approach is his insistence that things don't have to be a certain way just because they've always been that way. If people in a community decide they want something, they should band together to make it happen. If we don't all do a little dreaming about what our ideal schools would look like, we'll end up with a model of education that nobody really wants.

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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





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Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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