Recently, I have been reminded of a podcast I listened to when I was a first year teacher. I was listening to this guy from the West Coast, Southern California to be exact. He is a writer, a fashion designer, an artist, and a speaker at national conferences. He said something that intrigued me… he said, “I keep hearing from people that they want to be relevant. I do not want to be relevant; we should not aim to be relevant. Because, at the end of the day, if you are relevant, that actually means someone got there first. You are second, or third, or fourth.” I think this gentleman had a point. I mean… how often do we hear about the new R’s in education: Rigor, Relationships, and Relevancy? The old R’s being Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. The new R’s are better and more fit for education in the 21st century. But, lately, I am even getting the sense that this is not good enough. After all, I agree… to be relevant means we did not get there first. I want to trail blaze, dream of new and better ways and go after it. How about you?
Okay, maybe you are not sold just yet. Maybe you are asking yourself, how does this really apply to education? Well, I have also asked this very question. It has taken me a while to grab hold of the idea of surpassing relevancy in education. However, recently I have had some conversations with some educational leaders that have prompted thoughts and ideas that pertain to making better the pursuit for relevancy in the education arena in today’s educational climate. I have spoken recently with school principals who have recently obtained a doctorate. I have asked them, “Are you going to do anything with your doctorate? Are you going to extend yourself past what you are already doing as a school principal?” Now, don’t get me wrong… I do not have anything against school leaders going after a doctorate. I am actually in the middle of my own dissertation for a doctoral degree. However, the answers given to me by my colleagues struck me as (although seemingly noble), really mundane and shallow once I thought more of it. Their answers have all been very similar, “I just want to teach a few undergrad classes,” “I want to be a reader for a dissertation”, or, “I just want to keep up with new educational trends.” I would ask a follow up question such as, “why this?” or “why that?” and again the answer while noble at first has now given pause to think. Their answer, across the board, has been… “I want to do this to stay current.” In the contemporary educational lexicon, they are staying “relevant.” I cannot help but to resonate with the speaker from the West Coast. This is simply just not good enough. Our kids deserve better. To stay current means that we are not innovating, we are not designing new ways of learning, we are not creating, and we are arriving too late for the digital natives we walk alongside. What if Starbucks chose to be current? We would not have the Frappuccino. What if Apple chose to be current? We would not have innovative tools such as the iPod or the iPad tablets. What if Mark Zuckerberg chose to be current? We would not have, in my opinion, one of the single greatest tools in communication ever created, Facebook.
What do you think? Is relevant good enough?