Lower Education

| January/February 2001 Issue

When I imagine the best ways to educate children, I am always drawn to a vision of communities built around the concept of learning at the very heart. It is a costly vision, rich with ideals. But as caring for our youth-as well as the need for lifelong learning-move higher on our social agendas, I know it can become a reality in the decades ahead.

I know this because my vision is based on seeds being planted today at schools throughout the world, seeds that are already bearing some fruit. In this vision, education begins in the home, supported by early childhood/parenting centers. These programs might be inspired by the pioneering Family and Intelligence projects in Venezuela, the remarkable early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia in Italy, or Parents as Teachers and other fine parent-education and preschool programs in the United States. Future community learning centers with supportive child/family services might replace today's schools, and Lighthouses of Knowledge, inspired by those now existing in Curitiba, Brazil, might evolve from existing public libraries. New, low-cost educational technologies are already becoming more available throughout the world.

What follows, then, is my vision of the places, teachers, and technologies that will educate our children-and ourselves-some 50 years from now. I'll start my tour with the newer educational structures for adults and parents and then move on to the child's classroom of the future.

Lighthouses of Knowledge 

Welcome first to a Lighthouse of Knowledge, a large, modern facility once known as the local library but that has transformed into a community focal point. It is made of transparent, shatterproof material. Like glasses that darken in the sunlight, the windows here cut glare when the sun is shining but otherwise let light pour in. As you can imagine, when the Lighthouses in all neighborhoods are lit up at night, the view is inspiring.

Open 24 hours a day year-round, Lighthouses are accessible to everyone, and many of the resources are free-a library of real books (some people still like the feel and smell), databases of electronic books, access to the Internet, satellite broadcast studios and receivers, multicast facilities, rooms for shared virtual realities, and other resources related to finding information and turning it into knowledge throughout life.

Each Lighthouse-keeper is in charge of maintaining a comprehensive database of all the educational resources in the community as well as booking uses of the facility. Businesses and individual entrepreneurs rent space for telework and electronic meetings or use the technologies for specialty training and distance learning. Those fees support the facility and provide space for nonprofits at low cost.

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