Southold's Journey Towards Fluency

by student —Blaise Lynn

 from Ian Jukes' The Committed Sardine



America and education: two words that used to go hand in hand. Not too long ago America was ranked number one internationally in education. Now we’re typically described as “mediocre.” The problem lies in the fact that the world has changed a lot since our system’s inception, but the American education system has not. As Secretary of Education Arne Dunkin put it “We have a 19th century education system for a 21st century economy.”

So if the current system is for the 19th century, what will a 21st century education look like? As with all futurist predictions, nobody really agrees on this, but we can look at several sources and make a reasonable prediction. The most drastic predictions typically deal with near total abolishment of the current system. Instead schools are replaced by a varied curriculum of technology-based learning. Students are guided by their curiosity and advance in each area independently. In this scenario students (and their parents) shop for courses independently. You might learn English from a “school” in New York City and Physics from a “school” in Florida.

A more middle ground approach involves reforming the current brick and mortar schools in order to educate students properly in the areas they need to succeed. This is where things like the 21st Century Fluency Project come in. In case you live in an education-current-events-in-Southold bubble, the Fluencies are part of a system designed by Lee Crockett and Ian Jukes that seeks to bring our school into the future, or at least the present. Mr. Gamberg is working to infuse the fluencies into the essence of what Southold teaches. The fluencies are basically the things you’re going to need to be able to do to work at a high skill job in your future. Though the wording varies, you’ll find plenty of support for the necessity of the things expressed in the fluencies.

Many of the fluencies you already learn to some degree in school but the key word is “fluency”—you need to be fluent in the fluencies in order to succeed. So the idea behind integrating the fluencies is to ensure that you can’t make it through Southold without achieving adequate proficiency. In addition to being able to write a term paper you are able to sort through the massive amount of available information on a topic (Information Fluency). Aside from just being able to use a spread sheet you can use social media properly to enhance your learning while still respecting yourself and others online (Digital Citizenship). When you come across a problem in real life you are able to recognize the applicability of your knowledge of math to figure it out (Solution Fluency). Collaboration Fluency means you’ll be able to work in groups of many sizes on many different projects.

You can recognize your own strengths and weaknesses and those of others in order to create the optimal division of labor and optimal result. You can create things that are aesthetically pleasing not just in art class but also for presentations and for fun (Creativity Fluency). Finally, you are able to read between the lines. You know that not everything written down (or said aloud for that matter) is true. You recognize the biases of the authors of things you read (Media Fluency).

As Mr. Gamberg hinted at his last assembly, we are working to ensure Digital Citizenship is taught at Southold as soon as possible. Our diverse panel of students is working on drafting a Digital Citizenship Contract for Southold. It will (hopefully) take the place of the current internet use policy and internet filter (iPrism). Our key concepts are Freedom and Responsibility. Basically it’s innocent until proven guilty. The internet, in all its scary international glory, will be available to all so long as they use it properly. If they don’t, there are consequences.

Our plan is to bring our proposal to the Board of Education at its final meeting in June. We will present our evidence of the problem with the current system and unveil the new student designed one. If all goes well you may never see a single iPrism warning next year ... but if you use the resources irresponsibly you won't be seeing much of the computers, either.This hopefully will be the first step of many to ensure that Southold isn't left behind in the wasteland of non-fluency.

—Blaise Lynn

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