Following the airing of XQ: The Super School Live program my social media feed blew up a bit with comments from my educator friends on threads like this one. The program featured a project spearheaded by Lauren Powel Jobs (aka Steve's window) and Russlynn H. Ali, who served as the Education Department’s assistant secretary for civil rights during the Obama administration. The show was a joint effort between the XQ Institute and Entertainment Industry Foundation which last tackled standing up to cancer and is now focused on rethinking education.
The XQ Super School Project sets out to inspire communities to help reshape high school so it prepares every American student for success in college, career, and life. More from the XQ Team here.
If you didn't watch the one-hour, star-studded program that appeared ad-free on all four major networks, check it out below and then come on back to find out what some of my colleagues thought about the program and my reactions.
You don't impress me much
For the most part, those in my circles were not impressed. There was an immediate distrust and suspicion around such a polished and produced program. To some it felt like an indoctrination video filled with propaganda.
I get the distrust and suspicion. Public school educators have been under attack for so long, it is almost a knee-jerk reaction to trust no one. Adding to that, innovative educators know the importance of media literacy and watching what is presented with a critical eye. Furthermore, for the modern educators out there, we know all the wonderful things happening with some of our teachers who are bringing innovative practices into classrooms that are truly designed to address today's learners. They are supporting students in learning coding, robotics, engineering, making, 3D printing, VR, AR and more. Of course this is important, but is it enough and are enough people doing it? Where do those things fit in, in a culture of a common core and standard assessments?
Another issue many had is the program felt like an infomercial where celebrities were paid to promote the charter school agenda.
I'm not sure.
A different take
I watched the program and reviewed the website and charter schools don't seem to be the focus. Of course, there could be a hidden agenda, but this was not evident in the program. For background, public school educators don't like charter schools because, among other reasons, they misguide the public about their success, and are allowed to have regulations lifted that other public schools might also benefit from if given the opportunity. My take, on the celebrities was that this was a part of the charitable work they do through EIF which uses the power of celebrity to raise awareness and funds for critical health, education, and social issues.
The program focus was not to give answers, but to rethink. To do that, instead it asked how schools could address important questions like:
Frankly, these are the type of questions that are not often enough driving the work of our schools, so I am all for inspiring a nation to think about and talk about these issues.
XQ Super School also points to problems in our schools such as that fact that too many students find school boring and irrelevant. We often disregard student voice. We need to rethink one-size-fits all assessments. We aren't moving around enough and engaged in the arts. We can learn by getting up from our school desks.
The program paid a tribute to teachers in a variety of ways from bringing in the voices of public school educators who are principals and teachers, to inspiring viewers to say #ThanksForTeachingMe to those educators who had an impact.
There was also an, "I wish I had learned" segment where celebrities pointed to important things they were not taught in school, such as financial literacy, self care, and fluency in languages other than English.
It is for these reasons, that I will reserve judgement on XQ Super School program and focus on the importance of getting society on board and aware of the idea that we do indeed need to rethink school and the more of us doing that, the better.
Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.
Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.