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The Speed of Change

Vision 2020 by 2020 provides an evolutionary way for the democratic learning model to become the dominant one should it prove to be what people want. It seeks to answer the questions:

  1. What happens when students are given more control over their learning?
  2. Does the democratic learning model live up to its promise when applied to public education?
  3. If through pilot projects people conclude that the model will better suit our needs, is change by choice an effective approach to implementing it?

Hopefully by the year 2020 we will have definitive answers to these questions.

Rushing the required studies could result in good ideas being discredited and children being put at risk. The timeframe for the campaign, therefore, takes into account that reliable results take time to acquire and that no child is to be sacrificed in the process.

Another consideration that calls for a cautious approach is that the more radical a project is, the fewer the number of people who will be willing to participate in it. The pilot programs cannot be too much outside the realm of conventional thinking or the goal of having a large number of secondary schools conducting them will not be obtainable.

With that having been said, it is hoped that, before 2020, successful pilot programs will be expanded in various ways to provide a fuller understanding of how the democratic model can be applied to public education. The idea is to incrementally evolve to a full democratic model as people become ready of it. If a basic one-classroom program is working well after a couple of years of operation and more students want to enroll in it, then it can be expanded to more classrooms with more teachers involved. Increasing the cross-age range is another way to grow it. Thirdly, if ministries of education can be convinced to be less prescriptive with their curriculum, then some pilot studies could give students more control over what they learn, not just how they learn it.

If more than one school in a given locality undertakes to run a democratic program, then partnerships between schools can be explored. Partnerships are a way to expose students to more teachers who are true experts. The unscheduled days of democratic schools dramatically increase the possibilities for exchanges between schools. Master teachers are not confined to one classroom and only four privileged groups of students each semester. Their expertise can be shared far more broadly with students in their own schools and in other schools. Partnerships also provide the basis of natural accountability. Students are going to want their schools to be as good as the others they visit. If they like what they see happening in other schools, they will want to make it happen in their school. Online partnerships using Skype or FaceTime are also something that can be well explored by schools participating in Vision 2020 by 2020.

Pilot programs that begin as early as September 2014 may progress well beyond their starting point by 2020. It is likely, however, that as a program grows it will meet with increasing resistance. Traditional teachers who will tolerate one small program that has little effect on what they do may become less tolerant if their way of life starts to become threatened. This resistance can become great enough to not only prevent a good program from expanding; it can kill a successful program. It is hoped that the knowledge people share through Vision 2020 by 2020 will help to prevent this from happening.

Walking the line between what we want to do and what it is possible to do is something change agents must do well. Through Vision 2020 by 2020, experiences and ideas on how to walk that line can be shared to help ensure that successful programs remain operating. People who want to expand their pilot programs will need to carefully plan how to manage growth. People who are not ready for change need to be taken into account as much as those wanting it. Failure to provide for both groups could result in a backlash that defeats efforts to bring about change.

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