TRANSFORM THE WORLD
Emily Pilloton spent the time in a woodshop, teaching teenagers how to prototype roof joists for public chicken coops. And not just any teenagers loud, unruly, secretly brilliant, very underprivileged teenagers.
How she ended up in this role: a trained architect and designer working as a high school educator in the poorest county in North Carolina. It was a feat of serendipity, blind ambition, and the desire to bring together design, community building, and public education.
In short, they believed they could bring back shop class, infuse it with design thinking, and build real community progress in a struggling rural place like Bertie County. Bertie has a total population of 20,000, with 27 people per square mile; one-third of the children live in poverty; and 95 percent of all public school students receive a free or reduced-rate lunch.
That TED talk, which she delivered with sincere passion, came with a tragic irony: She was unaware that wheels were in motion to oust both the visionary superintendent who first brought them to Bertie County and any programs he helped make possible.
What followed was an emotional and political roller coaster that can only be described as Machiavellian.
It involved a school board which evicted them from the district-owned home they were living in, followed by accusations that they had forged our grant funding documents. One board member even asked her for her bank account info so she could check for herself that they had the money.
It involved pleading to the board while they not-so-subtly told us to scram, and eventually talking them into letting us stay on the condition that they would receive not one penny of support from the school district. In short, the "won."
MY PERSONAL OPINION
Without a doubt, this is a brilliant application of design-thinking. I think that every town needs charity and volunteer work, but when the educated people are the ones helping, doing the process, the product is more efficient because people tend to listen more when you have a degree. Also, involving the local communities and establishing a learner-centered system is definitely the future of education anywhere in the world. It is also a model that old teacher-centered traditional systems have to measure up against. What makes this special is the location where they choose to offer this program in order to create a better future.