In one viewing experience, I cheered; I shouted at the screen; I rolled my eyes; I cheered again, and maybe I even teared up a little. No, I wasn’t watching a football game… I was pre-screening the surprise Sundance Film Festival hit, Most Likely To Succeed. After experiencing all of those reactions, I thought intensely about the film for about 24 hours and then felt compelled, despite having an incredibly busy week, to watch it again….
Mackintosh Academy, in conjunction with partner sponsors, is hosting three screenings in the next two months. Please join us for the film and also for follow-up panel discussions.
At Mackintosh Academy, we hold dear many tenets: child-centeredness; collaborative, hands-on, learning-by-doing work; connecting learning beyond the borders of our school by considering real world problems; summative assessment approaches that demonstrate process as much as product and allow for self and peer reflections; learning how to ask the right questions; and learning how to synthesize and validate information. Students learn critical life skills by doing, making, collaborating, failing, analyzing, and trying again. Students create their own knowledge in a supportive atmosphere they help create. Teachers facilitate learning and collaborate with each other to design curriculum and examine pedagogy. Many of these tenets can be credited to traditional progressive education, which began as an educational reform movement, grounded in constructivism, over a hundred years ago.
Alfie Kohn, a current proponent of progressive education, wrote, “The more we’re influenced by the insights of progressive education, the more we’re forced to rethink what it means to be a good teacher. That process will unavoidably ruffle some feathers, including our own… And speaking of feather-ruffling, I’m frequently reminded that progressive education has an uphill journey because of the larger culture we live in. It’s an approach that is in some respects inherently subversive, and people in power do not always enjoy being subverted. As Vito Perrone has written, “The values of progressivism—including skepticism, questioning, challenging, openness, and seeking alternate possibilities—have long struggled for acceptance in American society. That they did not come to dominate the schools is not surprising.”
As a rallying cry for the progressive education movement, John Dewey said, “The world is moving at a tremendous rate. Going no one knows where. We must prepare our children, not for the world of the past. Not for our world. But for their world. The world of the future.” Dewey’s wise words, a century old, could also essentially be the rallying cry of Most Likely to Succeed.
While Most Likely to Succeed served as validation for the way we teach at Mackintosh Academy, as it likely will for other progressive educators and schools around the country, this movie should function as a wake-up call for most. It will hopefully bring to light the critical importance of the road map and ideals laid out by progressive educators decades ago. It should raise the collective consciousness about what matters for our children as learners and what they need to prepare for their uncertain futures. It should force our country to examine and then dismantle the silos of an education system that is not best for how children learn. It should ruffle feathers.