Dec 2021

The Future of Smart

Just released! New book by Grantmakers for Education's Dr. Ulcca Joshi Hansen

Our Education System Is Failing Because It Is Doing Exactly What It Was Designed to Do!

Our best efforts at modernizing education have failed to improve the lives of students or change society for the better. This is no accident: the current system is failing us because it ignores our deepest knowledge about how human beings thrive. Being “smart” today is still about sorting kids based on how well they absorb and retain knowledge. We need education to reflect a different set of values: interdependence, community, diversity, and deep, dynamic learning. We need it to align with human development, facilitate learning for different kinds of brains, and prepare young people for a changing society and evolving workplace.

The book explores how funders and policymakers can leverage the disruptions of COVID to build P-K through postsecondary systems in ways that reflect research on human development, learning science and the future of work and civil society.

Blending history and science with stories from inside the system,The Future of Smart is a must-read for anyone concerned about the future of education. Dr. Hansen explains the disconnect between what we want for our children, and what education today provides. She shows how we can build an education system to nurture the unique, human capabilities of each child, and lay the groundwork for a more equitable, just and humane future.

Order Dr. Hansen's book here.

We welcome you to invite Dr. Hansen to speak at your foundation or in your community. Please let her know of your interest here.

What education leaders are saying about The Future of Smart

Andy Calkins, Co-Director, Next Generation Learning Challenge
If you have read The Overstory, Richard Powers' novel about the lives of trees, you need to read this book. If you’ve read The Overstory and Todd Rose's The End of Average, you should buy this book today and start reading it tomorrow. If you have read The Overstory, The End of Average, and anything by Margaret Wheatley, you should buy 20 copies of this book because you're going to want to recommend it and offer it to that many other people before you've even finished it.

Ulcca Joshi Hansen's book is the one that ties it all together. She draws on the resilient, networked adaptiveness of nature, and a combination of brain science and wisdom of indigenous cultures, and from firsthand observation over many years of truly enabling, empowering school communities to produce a different kind of expression of all of these ideas. If you're reading this review, you have likely asked yourself: "Why are our schools that way? No really -- WHY?" You'll find a deep answer here.

The story of a community, it's said, is written and told in the nature of its schools and the ways in which it treats its children. And our public schools do reflect so much of what makes the United States such a confounding puzzle -- such an astonishing and promising experiment, and yet so seemingly unable to resolve faultlines that were present at its birth and to move forward towards a better version of itself. A broader understanding of this conflict -- between what Hansen calls Cartesian-Newtonian and Indigenous-Holistic worldviews -- would go a long way towards helping this country, and our public schools, advance.

I think I read this book more carefully than any other education-related book. (Except perhaps The Phantom Tollbooth; I can read that one every year and find new ways to love it.) If you care about the deep underpinnings that shape so much of our society today, and are yearning to see some glimpses of how a different approach to public education could help us minimize hate, optimize trust and humaneness and emotional safety, re-align our communities around truths we do recognize as individuals (but that our systems have long come to ignore), and help each child find fulfillment, service and success.... this is the book for you. As Hansen puts it: "Choosing to live in harmony with others is not the same as sacrificing one's freedom. Within true community, freedom is responsibility in cooperation." Her book points the way.

Dr. Michelle Pledger, Center for Research on Equity and Education, High Tech High Graduate School of Education
As I work my way through this meaningful text there is so much to unpack and explore! I find myself re-reading passages to help deepen my understanding. Dr. Hansen provides rich history regarding how our education model came to be based in a Cartesian-Newtonian worldview, and shares ways in which Holistic-Indigenous Learning models are possible, powerful, and necessary. I'm an instructor in teacher prep programs and graduate student courses, and I'm already thinking about ways to incorporate this content into my curriculum. So much to dig into, explore, and expand. I highly recommend this text! 

Dr. Paul Teske, Dean, School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado
Dr. Ulcca Hansen’s new book The Future of Smart is itself very smart in 2021. But, as she asks in the book, the real question is “how is it smart”?

From my perspective, it weaves history, neuroscience, philosophy, and other fields through the Cartesian-Newtonian education policy debates, not only thinking “out of the box” but often on an entirely different plane. She argues powerfully for a reconceptualization of education, but not via most of the discussions of recent years, about finance, governance, test scores and the like. Instead, she puts flesh and bones on the sometimes frustratingly vague notions of “whole child” and “it takes a village” approaches that often seem like a soft and unclear direction in our more linear thinking world. Guiding and allowing a [young person]’s curiosity and drive to emerge, rather than stuffing knowledge into their brain, becomes more understandable and reasonable as you progress through the book, and the science and history support these arguments.

The breadth of her applications of “holistic-indigenous” thinking is impressive. And, her school level examples provide ground level context to her bigger picture thinking.

Dr. Hansen also integrates her personal story into the work, and that narrative gives the book even more authenticity. Overall, a very good read, and one that will resonate in your left and right brain hemispheres for a long time after you finish it.

Jenee Henry Wood, Head of Organizational Learning, Transcend
For decades, our national discourse for improving the quality and outcomes of American education has been dominated by narrow and technical solutions that tinker on the edges of the factory/industrial model without ever making true leaps towards a new vision of the system that will cultivate young people in all their infinite potential. Dr. Hansen's brilliant examination is radical in its effort to deconstruct the assumptions and values that prop up an outdated model of learning and fuel failed policy solutions that will not meet the needs of this century. This book is urgently needed as we wrestle with the ramifications of widening income-stratification and deeply rooted racial injustice, in which our education system is complicit. If we are to meet the challenges of our age and solve seemingly intractable problems through public institutions, we must embrace new mental models and habits of being. The Future of Smart offers an astute and historically-grounded approach to begin that worthy journey.

Professor Stewart D. Friedman, Founding Director, Wharton Leadership Program and Work/Life Integration Project
Well-written and cogently organized history of how we got into the education mess we're in followed by a critical and compassionate view of where we are now and, most importantly, where we can and must go. Essential reading for parents, educators, policy-makers, and business leaders interested investing in our nation's future through the most useful channel available -- the means by which we choose to educate. I especially appreciated Hansen's challenging questions about the values we enact in contrast to the ones we espouse. This book will wake you up and move you to think, talk, and act more intelligently about education in America.