PROCESS POST: Big Shifts, Revolution, and Foxfire

I only have a few minutes to write, and I wanted to record a bit of what I am researching and thinking about…

Big Shifts

Thanks to Twitter, I picked up on a post from @MikeGwaltney (Mike Gwaltney): “A Conversation about Big Shifts.” In the post, Gwaltney recounted NAIS president Pat Bassett’s main points from his March NAIS address and his later talk at TEDxSt. George’s School.

1. Knowing must become Doing.

2. Teacher-Centered must become Student-Centered.

3. Individual must become Team.

4. Consumption must become Construction.

5. Schools must become Networks.

6. Single Sourcing must become Crowd Sourcing.

7.High Stakes Testing must become High Value Demonstration.

8. Disciplinary must become Interdisciplinary.

Maybe because I, too, was present for Bassett’s NAIS keynote and because I had listened to the TEDx talk, Gwaltney’s post really resonated with me – I was primed to hold the post and its message in my mind.


Thanks to The Lovett School’s fine American Studies Institute in June: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised? American Culture: 1970-present,” I have had Jay Bonner (of The Asheville School) in my mind, as I have continuously contemplated his idea that “revolution” is a cyclical re-turning…perhaps a revolution is a return to things of the past.


Thanks to a research project I am working on, I was re-reading Thomas Armstrong’s The Best Schools: How Human Development Research Should Inform Educational Practice. Of course, this line really struck a cord with me:

Educators who employ Academic Achievement Discourse often highlight the existence of a so-called achievement gap that has beset our nation’s schools. However, there is a far more profound educational gap that needs bridging. It is the gap between the ‘schoolhouse world’ and the ‘real world.’ All children, but especially those at the elementary school level, have as a central developmental focus the need to find out how the world works. (pp. 89-90)

I went on to read about best practices in “real-world schooling,” and I discovered The Foxfire Project, which is a brand of community-based education.

Another way that children can learn about how the world works is through direct contact with their local community. Perhaps the most well-known example of this approach is the Foxfire Experiment [I did not know about it]. In 1966, Eliot Wigginton and his students at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School in northeast Georgia embarked on a mission to interview local elders in the surrounding community….Their project gave birth to a magazine called Foxfire…, and later to a book, a movie, a museum, and a foundation that still operates to further this kind of approach to learning in schools around the country (Wigginton, 1973). (pp. 104-105)

The Braid – Weaving Together Big Shifts, Revolution, and Foxfire

I am fascinated by the juxtaposition of “Big Shifts” and “Revolutions.” As I read and discover more about the Foxfire Project, I realize that the “Big Shifts” are all there. All of them. In 1966, the Foxfire Project possessed all 8 of Bassett’s big shifts.

Could the big shifts in education be returns – revolutions – to methods of the past? Many speak of the cycles of educational methodology. But are we long-term meandering around a more powerful approach to school-based education? What will be the catalyst(s) and stimuli that actually cause the big shifts (returns?) to occur large-scale in schools? When will the revolution be achieved?

Are we trying to push an enormous stone of inertial resistance up a huge slope of fear-of-change? Is that why the revolution never seems to apex and move with momentum down the other side of the slope?

Works Cited

Armstrong, Thomas. The Best Schools: How Human Development Research Should Inform Educational Practice. ASCD, Alexandria, VA: 2006.

4 thoughts on “PROCESS POST: Big Shifts, Revolution, and Foxfire

  1. Pingback: Networks, Peer Progressives, School 3.0, and Future Perfect #IDreamASchool #School3pt0 | it's about learning

  2. Pingback: In Retro Cite (weekly) « A Retrospective Saunter

  3. Will do, Philip. I am only just scratching the surface. The discovery reinforces what my grad school mentor used to say – “we have thought of nothing really new in education for decades. We are recycling the ideas of old greats…and many times we don’t even know it because we don’t know our educational history. They should teach that in schools!”

    Looking forward to the swirl with you, when it comes.

  4. Add Foxfire to our list of topics to discuss when we see each other next. I found them a few years ago when researching constructivism and bought some of their books. I have found them fascinating.

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