For many years, Nearfutureville was a just small desert town with very few Catholics. Today, it is emblematic of the Catholic Church in the United States, with migrants from the Northeast and Midwest and immigrants from every part of the globe. Its Catholic population includes a few extremely wealthy entrepreneurs, a significant number of middle-class professionals, and many lower-income people who mostly work in the service industry.
Three years ago, the bishop of the newly established Diocese of Nearfutureville, convinced that Catholic education is the best way to foster faith, established an innovative network of schools. When diocesan leaders reflected on how well their Catholic education had prepared them for leadership today, they realized that they had to prepare young people for leadership in 2050. "What will the world be like then?" they wondered. "How can we prepare young people today for what they will face tomorrow?"
Diocesan leaders knew that they had a golden opportunity to be visionary pioneers; they wanted to complement the best of the past with cutting-edge innovations to prepare for the future. They identified three distinctive elements of their educational enterprise: fostering 21st-century thinking skills, sustaining vibrant faith communities, and being anchored in and anchoring the greater community.
Yesterday's schools cannot provide the knowledge and skills that will be needed by those who will be society's leaders in the mid-21st century. In the past, schools transmitted knowledge in routine and often fragmented pieces through courses and written materials five days per week for 180 days in an academic calendar created to accommodate an agricultural society.
Over the past decade, discoveries in neuroscience and cognitive psychology reveal that traditional ways of organizing curriculum and instruction fail to provide optimal learning experiences. Schools today need to foster creativity over rote memorization, differentiated learning rather than one-size-fits-all, problem solving over quick right-and-wrong answers.
Along with advances in our understanding of the way the brain processes knowledge are dramatic changes in the way knowledge is passed on. Information about anything is just a Google …