Frequently Asked Questions
The World Becomes What We Teach: Educating a Generation of Solutionaries
by Zoe Weil
Q. What are the problems that solutionary-focused education addresses?
A. It can address all problems, large and small! The beauty of solutionary-focused education is that it provides young people with critical, creative, and systems thinking skills, so that they can identify and engage with local and global challenges. Solutionary-focused education also helps them uncover the complex and interconnected systems that perpetuate those challenges, so that they can solve them wisely and effectively. In the process, they not only gain foundational literacy, numeracy, and scientific thinking skills, but also collaborative abilities, deeper empathy, and a powerful sense of personal effectiveness and agency.
Q. How is this kind of education reform different from other initiatives to improve schooling?
A.The fundamental purpose of solutionary-focused education is different from typical education reforms. Our goal isn’t to simply improve test scores or prepare students more effectively for global competitiveness (the mission of the U.S. Department of Education). It’s to fully engage young people in real-world, relevant learning that prepares them to be proficient thinkers, people of great character, and effective problem-solvers for a more just and sustainable world.
Q. How can solutionary-focused education be implemented?
A. My book offers many ideas for implementation. Solutionary-focused learning can happen through both small and large shifts in curricula and pedagogy, so that teachers can better integrate real-world issues into the classroom. The Institute for Humane Education (IHE) offers many resources and support for making this transition, including a free evolutionary-focused unit that can be downloaded here: https://humaneeducation.org/ihe-dead-zone-unit/.
Q. Do teachers need to be trained to be humane educators in order to implement your ideas?
A. Training certainly helps teachers. Few of us, whether teachers or other professionals, are fully aware of the many global challenges that affect people, animals, and the environment, let alone the intricate and interconnected systems that perpetuate those challenges. In order to teach young people to be systems thinkers and systems changers, teachers need proficiency themselves. My book provides a short and powerful map that can launch teachers on this path. IHE also provides an award-winning free resource center for teachers, along with many professional development opportunities, including short online courses, workshops, and online master’s degree and certificate programs.
Q. Is solutionary-focused education really just a strategy to help improve the world, or is it the best approach for educating children?
A. It is both! Solutionary-focused education is the most effective strategy for a thriving future, as well as the most powerful and positive way to teach children. Educating a generation of solutionaries offers youth the greatest opportunity to lead successful, meaningful lives of great purpose and joy. When young people are engaged in their learning and can see the positive real-world impacts of their thinking and actions, they not only gain essential academic skills, but also life skills, including better communication, confidence, collaborative abilities, and a drive for goodness. Such young people then become more valuable to colleges and employers. Plus they are rewarded with the knowledge that they matter.
Q. Can you tell us more about about the Solutionary Congress Program (SCP)?
A. We are piloting the Solutionary Congress Program in half a dozen schools in spring 2016 and will expand the pilot in 2017 to prepare for the full launch in 2018. Students who participate in the SCP work in teams to identify a problem that concerns them; uncover the systemic causes and devise a solution; implement and assess their solution; and then present it at a Congress attended by school and community members, as well as legislators, media, and social investors, who can further spread and operationalize the best ideas. Two things that make this program different from similar programs are that 1) solutions cannot harm people, animals, or the environment, and 2) ideas must be “solutionary” – that is they must go to the root of a problem to solve it; they cannot be band-aids. We look forward to the program spreading across the world and having a tremendous positive impact on both young people and the future.
Q. What defines solutionary students? How are they different from other highly achieving young people?
A. Solutionaries focus less on debate and more on collectively uncovering the very best and most feasible ideas to address and solve problems. They are dedicated to meeting the needs of all stakeholders, rather than taking sides. Solutionary students have exceptional critical and systems thinking skills that they regularly develop and hone. Because a solutionary solution must address a problem at its core, solutionary students become deep thinkers, great listeners, and truly compassionate people.
Q. Please describe the Institute for Humane Education
A: The Institute for Humane Education (IHE) is a nonprofit organization founded to create a more just, humane and healthy world through education. IHE offers master’s degrees and certificate programs through an affiliation with Valparaiso University, as well as online courses, workshops, the Solutionary Congress Program, and a free award-winning online resource center.