Policy Meets PZ

Or – When Life Comes Full Circle

I want to share this brief reflection on one of my grad school courses called “Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century: Project Zero Perspectives”. 

Policy can be so depressing sometimes. While it’s supposed to encode efficiency and equity to foster peace, democracy, and human progress, it frequently remains a quixotic, distant ambition that struggles to manifest itself in reality. Education policy in particular is supposed to protect the most vulnerable members of our societies so that our collective future can be molded by healthy, happy, and capable generations. Here, too, systems often fail those they are supposed to serve.

This reality, to me, is tragic. And not acceptable.

Like anything in life, policy is contingent upon conversation. Not surprisingly, policy’s paralysis is often the result of conversations that turn into screaming matches and consequential silences. For that very reason, I studied linguistics in undergrad. The only answer that I could find was the following: many times, political conversations don’t include facts, creativity, and compromises anymore.

And again, I was depressed.

At Harvard Graduate School of Education, I was determined to, yes, explore the ways in which we communicate on the governmental and intergovernmental levels to serve our protégées; more importantly, however, I was eager to find out how we can educate young minds to be inquisitive, innovative, and bold so that we can be unstuck again. So we can have conversations again. And a brighter future.

And the path led me to Project Zero.

According to Howard Gardner, PZ principles give educators concrete techniques to train children’s minds to conceptualize the world in different ways. Throughout my time at Sacred Heart School in Washington, DC, and the survey-sessions that this course consists of here at HGSE, I was able to see this powerful process at work: teams of educators select rich learning inputs for their students based on data, research, and relevance; they structure the learning process very intentionally; and they document learning outputs in technologically advanced ways to foster true understanding. Manifestly, learning is hereby treated as an ongoing process rather than a finished product, which philosophically shifts the focus off the future and onto the present. At first sight, this seems counter-intuitive—aren’t educators preparing future generations? PZ would respond that yes, indeed, that is the case, but the future starts in the present, doesn’t it. Consequently, it is imperative that educators know the past, anticipate the future, and care about their immediate circumstances bound by time and space.

And never lose hope.

PZ has been pivotal in my making the connection between my past passion for language and my future desire to serve in education policy. I can now see that policy starts with conversations. Conversations start with two interlocutors who speak about the same issue. There are many issues we need to have serious conversations about first in order to then be able to make efficient and equitable policies for. It starts with training minds to be able to converse intelligently and inquisitively about pressing issues. It continues with policies that encode solutions rather than problems. It ends with realizing that, yes, it is a cycle, but it does start with the kids.

It starts right here, and it starts right now.