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No Right Brain Left Behind

Image headings from one of 58-12′s proposals. See more at the project sites.

58-12 Design Lab recently had the opportunity to participate in No Right Brain Left Behind, a ‘speed innovation challenge’ that asked designers to imagine a school system that addressed the creativity crisis that is happening in the United States. This pressing issue is critical to the long-term well being of our nation and of the world – if kids are not properly educated, it spells disaster for their future and our future as a society. And, in fact, there is quite a bit of evidence that the way we currently teach is fundamentally flawed – take a look at the video at the end of this post for a riveting TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, a member of the jury for the No Right Brain Left Behind project, on precisely this topic. In all, it was a hectic week in which we met, brainstormed ideas, developed pitches for those ideas, and posted the ideas to a communal site. You can see our submissions here.

Many of our ideas revolved around problems that go a bit deeper than the quick and clever solutions that the No Right Brain Left Behind project plans on actually implementing. One of these themes is the disconnect between how learning happens in school and how ex-students are expected to suddenly transition to the working world. Another theme is the disconnect between learning how to give back to society and ‘achievement’ as measured by letter grades. The theme of the inadequacy of testing and its relationship to the perpetuation of socio-economic stratification in society surfaced multiple times. Finally, the theme of the relationship between schools and their communities – particularly within a contemporary moment where teachers are derided as unproductive members of society that have it easy and deserve less than a livable salary – was one that we found particularly pressing.

In the end, though many of our ideas were easily implementable, they tended towards pointing out larger social trends. We suggested things as simple as incorporating SAT and college preparation into regular curricula as to prevent the gap between those that can afford private tutoring and those that cannot. We suggested other things that may not be as simple – reforming our entire system of academic disciplines and abandoning letter grades, for example. It was a fun and exciting project and we encourage you to take a look at all the fascinating proposals suggested by the 115 firms that participated. We hope that this project becomes an annual event!

Posted on 03/15/2011 by Jonathan Crisman

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