OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT-ELECT

 
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 12:11 pm
PostPost subject: OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT-ELECT
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TO THE PRESIDENT-ELECT


They say that Education is on the back burner. Will the change that is needed in Education have to wait? America could not afford 4 more years of Bush. Nor can we afford his so-called legacy to Education. We can take action now.

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

We cannot afford to wait to fix education. If we don't act now, we will produce another wave of ill-equipped, poorly educated Americans who will enter the marketplace hapless as to the responsibilities of citizenship. At rock bottom, Education determines a nation's economic health.

How can we expect the young to solve the future’s problems if we don’t start preparing and including them in the process of change now?

Brain science dictates that we act now. If young minds aren’t enriched early, they become susceptible to TV and video games. If we don't understand how a child develops a creative mind and a pioneering spirit, our economy will not revive. If we don't begin to lay the groundwork now, we will lose motivation and momentum. By keeping education on the back-burner, America will always be hunted by economic monsters because we keep creating them over and over again. In the modern age, a nation's economic life turns on education. Therefore, it is crucial to seek and implement solutions that begin to revive and empower education now. We can no longer afford to wait.

The Education aircraft labors in flight. In the baggage compartment lies 20 years of dead weight--ignored brain research sealed in crates. Also on board: centuries of archaic learning culture erected to control learners and produce factory results instead of innovation. We can no longer pile on higher standards and more textbooks—the aircraft can’t take more weight. And how do you change an ancient engine on a Jetliner while in the air? The solution: Jettison the centuries of culture and put the 20 years of research to work. To apply the research, take a key topic of learning science-- like the evolutionary invention of play-- and turn it into functional (think: solar) 'brain energy' for Education. Inject new life into the old engine by tapping the new brain-based communication energy.

To close down our Factory Farm Brand Education and transform our classrooms into hives of inspiration and enthusiasm almost overnight, we can--through the organizing principle of play-- effectively harness the hum and buzz of young minds. We must support their spirit and empower their many strengths which they rightfully and inherently possess. We must catch the wave of energy and resourcefulness embodied in the young and ride it toward the future. For schools and the Learning Culture to radically change, they must tap the human resource long associated with the young. Play is a vital, systemic, sweeping solution to "the education problem."

Play and 'The Education Problem'

It is ironic that the field of Education has become the nation's 'problem child.' By now we know, as we have seen so often, that the problem isn't the child; it's usually in a system that is failing to reach the child. Consequently, we need to get through to the Problem Child in a creative way to save it--and America. For without a healthy and balanced Learning Culture, America cannot survive.

The Education Problem is a problem of culture. Any true solution must be a culture-changer. It must contain many elements that hang together--Theory, Tools, Chemistry, Minds, Hearts, Behavior--and a turnkey delivery system.

"Behavioralist Economics," a new way to rethink economic behavior being used in the Obama administration, must also be put to work in changing the Learning Culture. At this point, many intelligent minds know what's needed to change Education. The challenge is to find an operational vessel that can carry and deliver a plan seamlessly, economically, and behaviorally. The invention of play-based learning (and a successful language to advance it) has been devised to meet this need. Play is a form of energy capable of transforming the learning culture. The invention of a Learning and Teaching Language Based in Play effectively and practically harnesses Play energy and solves the energy distribution and delivery problem.

Play Language is primed to jump start and propel education into the 21st Century, and in so doing establish a foundation of practice and principle that could well prove an American export and gift to the progress of education around the globe. Basing educational policy and practice on the scientific principle of play will renew American Education, and help grow and nourish more vibrant education resources and economies worldwide. Education, in the age of information, must be viewed as the foundation of cultural infrastructure everywhere. Play energy can effectively drive innovation in a new global education infrastructure. A dedicated energy form to drive Education is an idea worthy of a history of American invention and ingenuity.

Play energy does not reside in expensive books and resources. It lives in the air, and takes root cost-free like a language. Like a wellspring, Play energy pushes from the bottom up, crosses all boundaries and reaches into all cultures and all ages, and reverses the one-way, top-down nature of communication in classrooms starved for warmth, safety, affection, creativity, openness, and positive social energy. Play energy can creatively destabilize the existing learning culture to make psychological and physical space for the new paradigm represented in this project to root.

Play provides a way for brain research to take hold in the learning culture, and does so in a way that introduces a core discovery about media singular to human play that captures the imagination and offers WOW to teachers struggling to rise above the systems that keep them confined and unexpressed.

The core discovery is in an art form that—oft categorized as amusement and entertainment—is a powerful communication brain-based wavelength for reaching the young of all ages—a media form and language unmatched by any other tool or concept used for teaching and communicating. Play Language empowers teachers to reach the young on a brain-based pathway to which young minds are innately and biologically tuned

If this sounds like romantic overreaching, consider the simple, yet revolutionary implications: as teachers and children use play and play-based art, their communication is enriched and rendered interactive, visual, and dynamic; the daily chemistry of the learning culture is transformed in the deep, culture-resistant areas of behavior, communication, and the dead-flat character of content. For decades families have made the pilgrimage to Disney's Epcot Center to experience (passively) a futuristic corporate vision of Education. In a Play-Based Learning Culture, every school and every classroom can develop into visionary centers of initiative, discovery, and enrichment in their own right.

If education is to rise above itself, it will need to be outsmarted by invasive Trojan horse strategies that the old culture cannot reject. Puppets are play-based tools widely known for their ability to bypass walls and reach resistant kids. Hence, a play-based mass communication media has the power to scale the tallest walls in the world—the walls surrounding the old-school monolith worldwide —and bring them down. Yes, I know--puppets are sure to stretch anyone's imagination in a discussion about education reform. But recast as language the medium offers potent, play-propelled potential for opening doors and minds at the classroom level to the overarching power and principle of play-based communication in teaching and learning. If play-based language instruction has been proven to work effectively and imaginatively in high school and college classrooms, then it can work anywhere and be directed to provide many solutions for challenges that are now swamping our learning environments.

It may sound Pollyanna to talk about the classroom as a place that needs more love and warmth. We are so used to the idea that classrooms are supposed to places where emotions are kept in check and the teachers are mandated to follow their pacing charts. But if we truly care about the minds of the young, we have to find ways to turn teachers into people children truly love and trust. A teacher who knows how to bring playfulness into his or her teaching is a teacher whom all kids will love, follow, and recall fondly in years to come. A project that can produce tens of thousands of teachers with this depth of creativity--an invention to re-invent education--should not be dismissed or ignored.

If we want a country that can lift itself on the wings of innovation, then we need to cultivate a thirst and hunger in the young for curiosity and invention. We need to give children and teachers the tools to empower them to use their hands and their imaginations. As a nation, we need to eat, live, and breathe the purposeful and inner directed spirit of play as if the pursuit of happiness was the national pastime. By erecting an education upon Play, new pathways of awareness and sensibilities will take root in an education soil vastly more healthy and productive in mind.

As both a practical and thematic force, play uniquely possesses the power to re-invent the learning culture. I began my project with the observation that if young people loved the medium of puppetry as if it was hardwired in their spirit, then it seemed completely wrong for our obsessive factory learning culture to 'drive by' a medium that young people not only loved so much, but also revealed so much about the power and receptivity of their minds.

In more than any other human endeavor, Education cries loudest for change. In the famous words of George Bernard Shaw, "Some men see things as they are and say why - I dream things that never were and say why not." I created Play Language because I believed it was wrong for an institution dedicated to building the minds of the young to ignore, reject, or fail to search for artful and creative ways to reach the young. To reject a medium as rich and powerful as play and puppetry in the name of education and its strict insistence of academic performance as a measure of intelligence is authoritarian policy and mindless practice.

We adults have built a massive superstructure of hardship and expectation in our education systems. The tragic irony is that adults have been talking and teaching way over the heads of the young from a left brain soap box. It is time to recognize that a right brain pathway is the primary frequency of young minds, and that there is a practical way for adults to access that pathway. In doing so many more kids will be reached, and new pathways for helping kids do what they already do naturally will naturally evolve. It is time to let go of the old frameworks, for they stand in the way of progress and enlightenment in education. Humane Education is not just for the protection of animals.

As I suggested in the papers I was invited to present an an OECD Brain Science symposium in Denmark just a few years ago, the time has come for us to establish education as the foundation of social infrastructure and endeavor, and play as the primary civilizing and preparatory medium of learning. The world cannot survive intact without a scientific solution to the Education problem. Brain-based, spontaneous, kid-driven Play is the solution. This strategy and model, which pushes play and its use far beyond the conventional boundaries into communication, mimics evolution in its oddness and ingenuity as a social invention based in nature.

Technology is now outpacing education. We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t connect with vast number of young people who sit idly in our classrooms that have come to serve more as holding tanks for future dropouts than places brimming with enthusiasm and vitality and a love for learning. We must reach kids where they live in their hearts and minds. If the water table lies 100 feet, but our drills are set to reach only 90 feet, our efforts toward reform will be futile. Play reaches 100 feet down. Play is where the young reside. Play is the wellspring of a humanized, enlightened learning culture. It's time to drill for an Economic resource that will far out perform and outlive oil. If Education is infrastructure, then play is the enriched core on which to build for the future.

Much has been made of the great promise that Technology holds for the future of Education. The Technology Lobby along with distinguished foundations (MacArthur being one) are promoting Gaming as an important pathway for the future of Learning. While Technology holds much value, its byproducts such as gaming and social networking must be carefully vetted and evaluated given their track record as a major comfort zone and time-eater for amusement-addicted and digit-happy youth. With so much attention on media, it is becoming increasingly evident that many young minds hard-wired to gaming, IM-ing, and text-messaged reality find reading, creative thinking, writing, and purposeful action away from technology significantly difficult. There needs to be balance and awareness that technology left to its own devices bodes ill for education and educators who, so far, have not learned to effectively leverage and control Technology so that it does not control the learning culture.

When Solon left pre-Socratic Athens, Peisistratus became leader of the party of the Highlands (poorer, rural people) in 565 BC. In 560 he began the construction of the temple to Athena on the Acropolis and promoted a number of public works including the Lyceum, temples to Apollo and to Zeus as well as the Fountain of the Nine Springs. He also supported literature and the arts. The Panathenaic Festival (reintroduced shortly before his reign) and the city Dionysia festival flourished during his time. Such a declaration is needed to propel us beyond the tyranny of NCLB. President Obama should announce a 'Perestroika' for Education, establishing a voluntary cessation of NCLB. If such an act is not possible anymore in the life of a modern day democratic republic because, well, boldness and creative spontaneity in leadership are no longer an option in our tightly programmed and managed culture, then we in America are on the road to cultural suicide. Such a presently imagined 'truce' (for our teachers have been in the trenches) would serve to heal and free the culture from its bureaucratic shackles and prime people's thinking about a new Education founded on principles of learning sciences and voluntary accountability through trust rather than intimidation and law. The time is now.

Jeffrey L. Peyton
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