Some months ago I posted here about a conversation I had with my doctoral adviser and his efforts to broaden the horizons of Ph.D. students past the academy. That discussion led to the interview that sparked this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: “Teaching Ph.D.’s How to Reach Out” http://chronicle.com/article/Teaching-PhDs-How-to-Reach/131776/ I’m sharing it here because Dr. Cassuto makes a point that we should be thinking about. Speaking from the academy, he says they spend too little time (or no time) thinking about K-12 education, even though those students are their future. But, in turn, what links do we as authors, artists, designers, editors, reviewers, librarians, teachers, have with them? Sure teachers go to Ed School and librarians have their Masters. But I mean ongoing contact — from the forefronts of thinking and knowledge to the classroom?
As authors we make individual contacts — we email professor X whose work on whatever we are researching is fascinating, hoping for an extra touch of personal observation to add texture to our books. And of course many of us trawl the Science Times and other publications for the latest discovery that might make a good subject for a book. But that is not what I mean. The academy, I have come to learn now that I am at Rutgers, is built on research; research runs on grants. That means every department is filled with smart people with specialized knowledge thinking up new ways of gaining knowledge, new insights, new theories, new modes of measurement. The buzz of intellectual activity and informed creativity is ongoing, even as we all think about how to excite students about knowledge, about history, math, science. How can we connect the two — there are shows like Mythbusters that are a kind of popular culture Reality TV version of science, and Bill Nye, and History Channel. But that is just one strand.
What if there were some forum, the Davos of Education, where academics and K-12 folks would meet and swap ideas and experiences. No agenda, no conference papers, no forms to fill out. Just meet, talk, learn, and build connections. In the article I suggest that grad students take a class in Communication, but what if all of us needed to take a class, every few years, in New Ideas from the Front? The Teaching American History program, which Congress killed in budget cuts, was a version of this for American History. Is there an expanded version of that which we could recreate — maybe online to save cost? Ideas?