Learning is something people, like other animals, do whenever our eyes are open. Education, though, is uniquely human, and right now it's at an unusual point of flux.
By some accounts, education is a $7 trillion global industry ripe for disruption. Others see it as almost a sacred pursuit — a means of nurturing developing minds while preserving tradition. Around the world, education means equal rights and opportunity. People risk their lives for it every day.
No matter what you think you know about education, what's clear right now is that the old blueprints are out the window. The economy isn't creating jobs the way it once did. Technology has forever altered how we communicate and has challenged the meaning of knowledge itself. The cost of college has risen more than any other good or service in the U.S. economy since 1978. There's increasing evidence that qualities like creativity, communication, collaboration and persistence matter most, yet our school system remains pegged to standardized tests that just take in reading and math.
Education has to become something more than regurgitating the past. But what?
That's what we'll be exploring at NPR Ed. Our mission: cover learning and education, online and on the air, from preschool through the workplace and beyond.
The stakes are high, and so are our ambitions. "If you look at the ramifications of good education coverage, it has to be one of the most important things that journalism takes on," says Claudio Sanchez, veteran NPR education reporter and a senior member of our team. "I think our measure of success should be whether we take the time to really put together pieces that speak to the average American, not the ivory tower."
So NPR Ed is not just for wonks. (Although, if you are a wonk, welcome! We're sure you'll find plenty to love.) We want to tell stories that inform curious people of all stripes about an issue of huge importance.
What Can You Expect?
We're inspired by teachers like Nikki Jones, who leads a preschool class in Tulsa, Okla. "I let the kids guide the curriculum," she told us last month. "If they're not engaged, I spend the day managing behavior, versus letting them discover and explore and construct their own knowledge of something."
If we're doing our job, reading this blog should take you back to being 4 years old again, in the best way possible. We want to engage you, spark your curiosity and let you guide the way. We're not afraid to have fun, be creative or get our hands dirty, if it means you come away feeling like you've discovered something.
We'll follow issues of inequality and access (like our series on paying for college), as well as the transformative promise — and threat — of educational technology. We'll look at early education, and the lives of special needs students. We'll do the math on the real value of a prestigious college degree. And fill in the bubbles of confusion on standardized testing. We'll track the unfolding saga of the Common Core State Standards. We'll have some fun exploring play and social and emotional learning. And — this week — we'll bring you all the wit and wisdom of graduation rituals.
Who Are We?
There's a "director of vertical initiatives and mischief," two editors, two radio reporters, a producer, two bloggers and a videojournalist, and we also work with NPR's Visuals team. We're millennials, Gen-Xers and boomers; there are two former classroom teachers, a foreign correspondent, a DJ, a screenwriter, a social media maven and a book author. Together, we're out to capture learning in its natural habitat, from soccer fields to science labs, boardrooms to bedrooms.
To do all this, we'll need your help. Follow us on Twitter. Reply in the comments. Let us know how we're doing. We want to include your voices in our stories — the voices of engaged citizens, teachers, parents, students and youth. We'll be looking for guests to write on the blog as well.
Connect with the NPR Ed team (@npr_ED on Twitter):
And tell us: What do you think are the biggest opportunities and challenges in education today?
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