Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Everything Old Is New Again

As I look back through our archives at some of the most significant trends in education, it is interesting to note that what seems like a new problem or a new idea most likely is not. Chances are that if you look back in history, you will see an older version of that “new” idea. Sometimes the idea sticks. Occasionally we find ourselves doing a complete 180.

Sustainability — On April 22, 1970, we celebrated the first Earth Day, putting air and water pollution and other environmental concerns on the front page. The sustainability movement took hold in the building and construction industry some 20 years later (1993) when the USGBC was established; the LEED rating system was unveiled in 2000. The Center for Green Schools was launched in 2010. Today, building sustainable schools is routine practice.

Energy and Design — With the OPEC oil embargo of 1973, oil prices jumped 350 percent. Through the early 1980s numerous articles were written on making schools more energy efficient. New mechanical systems were installed. Large windows, prevalent in older buildings, were closed off to save on heating and cooling costs. What wasn’t taken into account was the negative impact this would have on natural ventilation, light and the indoor-outdoor connection. Current research shows the positive effect of natural light on students. Windows are being added and historic windows are being restored.

Science and Technology — In 1957 the talk was about the Soviet Union, Sputnik, the space race and how American students were falling behind in math and science. Our strategy was to emphasize math and science and to expand vocational programs. The focus quickly faded. Fast-forward to the 2000s when global rankings, the economy and workforce development took center stage, and there was a renewed emphasis on what we now called S.T.E.M. Outside factors — jobs, and the idea that the U.S. has “fallen behind” — have been the drivers of this movement. The real driver should be our belief that students need the ability to think critically, problem-solve and collaborate to succeed.

Open Classrooms and Makerspace — In the ’60s and ’70s it was all about the open classroom. In the ’80s it was back to basics and the open classroom idea died. Today it is once again about active learning and collaboration, makerspaces where students can create and a focus on student-centered learning. My question is not so much about the space, but how we are training teachers to use it. We will need to say tuned to see if it sticks this time around!

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.

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