Letter to the Legislature

Greetings leaders in Minnesota education,

The education of America’s and especially Minnesota’s young people is never far from my thoughts. We are at a time when the drill in learning is very narrow and intense, but neither as deep nor as broad as the human potential. Even my own children seem governed by finding the right answers, and looking no farther until those answers falter. Yet in recent years we are seeing a resurgence of the thought process over the right answer, as if thinking were the diamond long buried in the mud of modern education policy. Critical thinking is coming back.

For over thirty years, a proponent of critical thinking, I urge you to consider the outcomes of our educational system in terms of human beings and quality of life over corporate profits and quantity of data. Critical thinking must take a front seat in the learning process. How we think is how we will be able to learn that which is not yet known. We need a future generation capable of shaping a world that we cannot now imagine, not a generation shaped by the last two decades of wealth acquisition in a digitized environment.

Here is an article supporting my contention that the sterility and superficiality of our bubble test education system is failing our children and youth: “Deep Education,” Francois Victor Tochon, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Beside feedback from academics, there is similar reaction from the business world to say schools must look beyond today to prepare young people for tomorrow, not yesterday.

Outside the politicized arena of schools as data factories for the world economy contest, there is still hope for schools as places to educate a Great American Society. Innovation must be more than a catch phrase; it will be the reality in a future of constant and untested re-invention. The foundations of learning are a vital jumping off place, but will our students have the stuff to take the leap into this unknown?

For the sake of our young people, please step back and consider the wisdom of our current policies. What would teaching and learning look like with the politics taken out? Put Minnesota back in the lead in education.

Respectfully,

Jay C. Ritterson

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Dreams

Another evening, as the light grows dim,
And crystal cold air crackles around the black oak,
The last few sparrows dart and chitter, grabbing one last seed.
Snow drifts down, silent, peaceful and dreamy.

In the dark come the dreams of sun and green.
In the petrifying cold come vague sensations of softness and warmth.
Behind the frozen puffs of breath come phantom whiffs of rain and trees in bloom.
In the deadly grey and black of night come fantastic visions of flowers dancing in the wind –
.     Tulips, jonquils, scillas, snowdrops –
.     Red, yellow, blue, white –
.     White as snow.
Another February night drifts into snowy blackness and dreams of spring.

February 2013