Dr. Tony Wagner Joins the Better World Ed Board
Dr. Tony Wagner is a globally admired lifelong educator and learner. Tony believes deeply in Better World Ed’s inclusive, academic, and global approach to Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and is passionate about bringing this SEL curriculum to educators, students, schools, districts, and parents all over the world. In school, during homeschooling, and beyond.
Hear Tony Wagner’s Perspective (see his update here):
“I’m truly excited to join the Board of one of the most creative and innovative education organizations that I’ve seen. Better World Ed is breaking new ground in helping teachers teach students essential 21st century skills while also developing their capacity for empathy and compassion, all while practicing literacy and numeracy in an inclusive, global way. In my memoir, Learning By Heart, I share how important it is that we engage every learner’s heart, mind, and soul — to truly love lifelong learning. Better World Ed is creating the curriculum to help learners do just that — across borders and lines of difference.”
Articles, BeWE Learning Journey
21st Century Learning, Creativity, SEL, Social Emotional Learning, Tony Wagner
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Dr. Tony Wagner Joins the Better World Ed Board
While the debates rage across the country on whether to open schools, one essential fact is too easily overlooked: Our youth are growing up in a time of profound crisis. No matter what shape back-to-school takes, we need to consider how adults can best support young people who feel their world and future are unraveling.
Coming of age in the 1960s, I know something about growing up in a time of crisis. For my generation, the imminent threat of a nuclear holocaust was our covid-19 and our climate change; we had zero confidence in the “duck and cover drills” that were supposed to inoculate us against incineration and prevent what we knew would be the end of life on earth.
Then there were the nightly news casts showing peaceful civil rights protesters being beaten and gassed, and the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., with the fiery conflagrations that followed in dozens of cities. The Vietnam War sparked fierce debates in families, communities and Congress, increasingly violent street protests. And the deaths of four college students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard in 1970 triggered student strikes that forced hundreds of colleges and universities to close.
Writing a memoir recently gave me an opportunity to reflect on what I most needed at that time of my life. The three things that I sought out are the same as what our adolescents most need today: a sense of community, some choice in what I learned, and opportunities to give voice to my fears, hopes and dreams.
First, I needed to be able to talk with others who could help me make sense of what was going on around me and who shared my ideals for a more just and peaceful society. Lacking adults in my life willing to listen, I sought community by joining a student civil rights group — much in the way that many young people today to participate in the Black Lives Matter movement or groups that protest climate change or gun control. Parents and teachers must encourage young people to talk about what they are seeing and feeling and reassure them that they are not alone in their fears and aspirations.
Choice in what students learn.
How did the Cold War start? Why was there segregation and prejudice? And was it true that the Vietnam War represented a necessary stand against communist aggression? These were the all-consuming questions of my generation, and what we were asked to learn in school felt irrelevant. The result was that many of us simply dropped out of college or even high school — I among them — and sought alternative schools where we could explore the questions that mattered most to us. Parents and teachers today need to provide time for youth to explore the burning issues of our era. With coaching, young people who do this will, as I did, learn how to ask the right questions and hone critical thinking skills.
Such learning must be expressed to be fully integrated and made coherent. Students need opportunities to write about their feelings, reason out their points of view, see how others respond and then revise their work. Our generation invented “teach-ins” — places where we could test our ideas and hear other points of view. We also wrote alternative newspapers and magazines where we could hone our writing skills. I published my first essays at the age of 21 in several such outlets. Seeing my thinking on a printed page was a validation of my reasoning and a profound motivation to continue to develop my writing skills. Students today need the same opportunities, and sympathetic adults can encourage students to write about what they feel and think and help them find outlets for their voice in school newspapers and on the Web.
Community, choice in learning and voice are tools that enable young people to begin to make meaning and find purpose in a world seemingly gone mad. All three can be powerfully enabled by caring adults who listen empathetically and support what our young people most want and need today.
– Dr. Tony Wagner is a globally admired lifelong educator. Tony believes deeply in Better World Ed’s inclusive, academic, and global approach to Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and is passionate about bringing this curriculum to educators, students, and parents all over the world. In school, for homeschooling, and beyond. Tony Wagner has joined the Better World Ed Board in 2021.