Three Questions Driving RE-ENVISIONED

March 07, 2017 by Rebecca Kisner

What makes a good life?

What are our shared dreams for our children?

What is the role of school in achieving these dreams?

These are the three questions driving the team at RE-ENVISIONED, a national movement to redefine the purpose of school. Their mission is as grand in scope as the answers to those questions: to interview 10,000 people across the country and from their collective responses, put forth a shared national vision for schooling.

The Donnell-Kay Foundation team learned about RE-ENVISIONED from its co-founder, Nicole Hensel, who was a fellow with DK in the summer of 2016. Nicole, her co-founder Erin Raab, and a group of graduate students at Stanford University came up with RE-ENVISIONED as a response to what they felt to be a lack of common understanding or purpose in education.

RE-ENVISIONED urges us to “forget for a moment the debates about accountability, and standards, testing and gaps. Let's step back and ask the basic questions. Are we even solving the right problems?” If you’ve ever pondered our society’s purpose for school or posed this question to someone else, you’re probably aware of just how disparate those responses can be. Instead of debating the merits of governance models, what if we started with what it means to have thriving individuals and a flourishing society?

Nicole and team believe a new shared vision for education must come not from academics or policy experts, but from “the deepest values and dreams of students, parents, educators and community members.” As the interviews accumulate, they post them on their website and social media platforms to begin fostering empathy for the perspectives of others. They also analyze (“code”) the interviews for themes, which will become the basis for the shared vision. Ultimately, their goal is to reframe the purpose of schooling more broadly in policy and through a national campaign.

You might be wondering, how long will it take a small team of graduate students to interview 10,000 people? The RE-ENVISIONED team has wisely implemented what they call a Catalyst model to ignite “a growing network of change-makers dedicated to systems change in education.” Once you are interviewed, you have the option to apply to become a Catalyst and begin interviewing others using a carefully designed interview protocol. If every person interviewed so far (approximately 300) set out to interview five other people, the project could be done in a year. Depending on how quickly the movement spreads, the team estimates that it will take between 2-5 years.

What’s refreshing about RE-ENVISIONED is a conversation elevated above social and ideological divides. Almost every person interviewed believes happiness makes a good life, despite how they identify demographically or politically. And yet, the team wants to know how people define happiness specifically - is it possible we all want our kids to be happy, but have different definitions of what constitutes a good life? At a moment in our country when disagreement can escalate quickly and often just leads to more entrenched camps of thought, it is more important than ever to listen openly to the lived experiences of others. To do so requires vulnerability and humility.

The DK team is excited to support the RE-ENVISIONED movement, as it aligns with their mission for the ReSchool Colorado initiative to co-design a new learner-centered education system. When reflecting on what makes a good life, we coalesced around four things: curiosity and lifelong learning, relationships and community, health and stability, and fulfilled purpose and meaning. Follow the links to read the full interviews with Tony Lewis, Amy Anderson, Rebecca Kisner and Paula Davis.

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