What Frontier?

(Assignment Below)

I had a short talk with my friend Paul Gilster last night while walking our dogs.  As a reminder, Paul is the author of Centauri Dreams (book/blog).  It’s a book, and subsequent blog, about visionary scientists who are plotting the method and means of achieving interstellar space travel within the next 50 years.  I never walk away from Gilster without a renewed feeling of wonder (if my mind hasn’t been entirely blown apart by the possibilities), and I never leave these conversations without being reminded that my generation, in its youth, had a frounteer.  It was set forth by John F. Kennedy on September 12, 1962, when he said,

We choose to go to the moon.
We choose to go to the moon,
In this decade and do the other things,
Not because they are easy,
But because they are hard. ((
Kennedy, John F. “We Choose to Go to the Moon.” Rice University, Houston, TX. 12 Sep 1962. Address. ))

Watch the speech
3:42 Version
17:48 Version
1:07 NASA Version

It’s the difference between the Sputnik challenge of the ’50s & ’60s and the educational challenge of this day.  My teachers were challenged to educate a generation who would send people to the moon and beyond, to explore the frontiers of space. Today, we are challenged to “Race to the Top.” It sounds good, but what does the top look like? There’s no picture of it to inspire us. There is a vague sense that our children will graduate smarter than theirs — as measured by some Common Core of Education Standards.

There is another reason that these thoughts came to a head for me this morning. Next week, The House Committee on Education & Labor, chaired by 34-year Congressman Hon. George Miller, will hold a hearing to learn more about states’ efforts to help improve the nation’s competitiveness by adopting a common core of college and career readiness standards. Witnesses will be Hon. Bill Ritter, Jr, Governor of Colorado, Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Doug Kubach, President and CEO of Pearson, and Cathy Allen, Vice Chair of the Board of Education at St. Mary’s County Public Schools.

I’m not going to criticize what the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers are doing — have done, in developing these standards.  It is good work. What I am critical of, is seemingly incredible lack of vision and imagination in setting a “Race to the Top” — a competition of test scores — as the frontier for this generation of youngsters. We must go much further than a mere listing of standards and measure of attainment.  We must inspire students, teachers, and a society with a image of what that frontier looks like and what its reach will achieve — and it’s got to be a lot more than what’s inspired us over the past few decades — getting rich!

So, here’s my topic assignment for youngster and teacher bloggers. What frontier might inspire us to race to a better, more exciting, and self-fulfilled future?

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Author: David Istlandoll

David Istlandoll has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.