Pam Jordan, president of the Idyllwild Arts Foundation, is the next speaker for the Idyllwild Community Center Speaker Series. She will discuss the transformative revolution in education.Photo by Marshall Smith
Pam Jordan, president of the Idyllwild Arts Foundation, is the next speaker for the Idyllwild Community Center Speaker Series. She will discuss the transformative revolution in education. Photo by Marshall Smith

“It’s no longer the little red school house,” said Pamela Jordan, president of the Idyllwild Arts Foundation. Jordan will talk about the student and information-driven bottom-up revolution that is changing educational paradigms in this country and around the world. Jordan is the next speaker in the Idyllwild Community Center Speaker Series and will talk about the value of arts education with its emphasis on creativity.

“Kids today are digital natives, able to find information and content they are interested in,” noted Jordan. “There is so much quality content that is available free online from leading universities. This speaks to the choices kids and parents now have.”

Jordan will discuss how students are driving the reformation in education, seeking information in which they are interested rather than studiously ingesting the standardized curriculum that is part of an increasingly outmoded educational system.

“The whole notion of school is changing in front of us. The old model from the 1800s is no longer working. Creativity and collaboration go hand in hand. This free, quality content has the potential to even the playing field, regardless of where the student lives.

“The new model could have something where there are partnerships between educational institutions and other businesses or groups,” she posited. Jordan mentioned, as an example, an elementary school partnering with a local bank and grocery store, so that students could learn subject matter experientially, through connections with real-world sources. “Think what it would look like to get outside of the [traditional] four walls [of an educational institution]?”

Jordan also mentioned the value of reaching out to the older generation for mentoring opportunities. She referenced “The Third Chapter” by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, about the wellspring of mentoring talent in the older/retired generation.

Jordan recommended Sir Ken Robinson’s RSAnimate talk in which he characterized the current educational model as one designed in and built for another era and different economic model. “Schools are still organized on a factory model,” noted Robinson. “If you’re interested in an effective model for learning, don’t start from a production-line mentality. Standardized testing is about standardization [of the student]. A student spends 10 years in school to be told there’s one answer at the end of the book. Divergent thinking is an essential capacity for creativity and great learning happens in groups,” not working alone to find the agreed answers teachers have specified should be found.

Robinson also bemoaned the medication of children diagnosed with what he calls the “plague” of ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder). “Kids are being medicated as routinely as having their tonsils out because they are distracted — and from what? Boring stuff, generally. The rise of ADHD has paralleled the rise of standardized testing. Don’t shut senses off. Expand them.”

Jordan and Robinson agree that arts education, based in collaborative creativity — not from the top down but driven by students’ interests — is an engaged and energetic educational model. “Twenty-first century competencies will require creativity and collaboration,” said Jordan. “The velocity of change will increase and students will learn to interact with very diverse communities.” Jordan sees the coming learning evolution as one where there will be fewer classrooms and more [interactive] learning spaces, where there will be fewer teachers and more mentors. These young people will change the system. Critical masses of young people are having experiences now that will change it.”

Jordan has a Bachelor of Music degree from Phillips University and a Master of Arts Education from Northeastern Illinois University. Prior to being appointed as IAF president, Jordan served for more than 23 years in various capacities at the Chicago Academy for the Arts, acting as head of school for the 11 years immediately preceding her Idyllwild appointment.

Jordan speaks at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day), at Silver Pines Lodge. Her talk is open to the public and there is no admission charge.