Does college prep (still) matter?

by Adam Dubé, Head of School

Over the past several years, there has been quite a bit written about the demise of higher education and the benefits of attending college. There are, not surprisingly, compelling arguments written from both sides of this divide. While some argue that college is little more than a mechanism for “signaling”, others point out that the lessons learned in college go well beyond the taught curriculum. A third argument is that the advent of online learning and the marshaling of technology resources on behalf of the learner will simply render obsolete college as we know it. Certainly, we can see this battle being played out in our own community with the reduction of state funding for our land grant university.

An increasingly globalized world, powerful new technologies, and the rapidly changing needs of employers and the skillsets their employees must possess lead to the conclusion that college is not immune to the changes that affect so many other aspects of our world. If this is true, then does college prep still matter?

I would argue that it does, increasingly so. As schools prepare students for what is an uncertain future career, the foundation upon which future skills are built becomes increasingly important. A liberal arts curriculum with an emphasis on science, math, languages, and social studies, and an equally robust emphasis on social/emotional learning is critical in preparing for college as it is today, but also as it could be (or not) in the future. If college changes, or goes away altogether, then the preparation students receive at CIS only increases in importance, rather than decreases.

In my next post, I will explore this topic further and the ways in which CIS is specifically preparing students for this multifarious world they will inherit.


Strong Learning

by Adam Dubé, Head of School

In sixth grade, I built an elevator for the middle school science fair. Not a real elevator, of course. It was small and made out of balsa wood, wire, and some motors from my Capsela set. In the process, I learned about how elevators work, tuning a motor to provide the correct gear ratio for lifting items of various mass, and the safety mechanisms protecting the passengers. (Original elevators had no safety brake. It wasn’t until Elisha Otis famously demonstrated his braking mechanism by being hoisted in an elevator and cutting the cables with a sword, engaging the brakes, that people saw elevators as safe.)

I often ask people to share their stories about their science fair projects. Although many people have a hard time recalling the books they read in middle school, or the content of history and science lessons, most of us can recall our science fair projects (if you were asked to do one).

The reason, I believe, relates to the three components of motivation that Daniel Pink identifies in his book Drive. They are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Students have some autonomy to choose the subject of their project. Their deep dive in that subject yields a degree of mastery of the content. And the purpose is often connected to an individual student’s passions and interests. As the authors of Make it Stick write, “Learning is stronger when it matters, when the abstract is made concrete and personal.” (emphasis added)

At CIS, we strive for students to engage in strong learning. It is a foundational principle for all of the activities that take place in The Cube, taking what is abstract and making it concrete and personal.

As a school, we continuously ask ourselves what matters most for success beyond K-12 education, and how do we make sure to keep students engaged. In the coming posts, I look forward to sharing some of our goals and objectives from our recent strategic plan, as we apply these principles of strong learning to all of our curriculum.