Joseph Gorham, superintendent of Carbondale Area School District, says there's a paradigm sift taking place in education today, and he wants Carbondale Area to be on the cutting edge of it.

Joseph Gorham, superintendent of Carbondale Area School District, says there's a paradigm sift taking place in education today, and he wants Carbondale Area to be on the cutting edge of it.

He outlined his vision for the school district, and his plan for doing just that, at the high school's annual art show and chorus concert, which was held on Thursday night, May 23.

Gorham gave the combined speech and video presentation in the classroom area of the high school library to a standing-room-only crowd which included school district officials, teachers, parents and members of the business community.
He addressed this paradigm shift — "a shift in the way we think about things" — by discussing the need to better prepare students to enter the workforce of the 21st century.

Gorham explained that the old education model is based upon a world that no longer exists. He called it a "rat in a maze mentality" of students sitting quietly at their desks and raising their hands if they have a question — a model he said was developed by a sewing machine company in the early part of America's history.

"It was a factory model that programmed people to enter the workforce as it existed at that time," he related. "Our school desks were even designed to get us to act in a certain way — you know, speak only when spoken to and don't leave your work station."

"Do we even have sewing machine factories today? Or silk mills?" he questioned.

But all that is changing, Gorham noted. As part of the presentation, he showed an eight-minute video entitled "Did You Know?" which summed it up this way: "Shift happens."

He said the shift is a grass-roots model that works "from the bottom up, not from the top down."

"The things I attach myself to are grass-roots movements," he explained. "I'm a Ben Franklin guy. He said 'knowledge is silver in the mind.' But what good is it if it stays in the mind?"

He stated that educators must "mine it" and bring it out in order to benefit the individual who has the knowledge as well as the world at large.

"We have to raise the bar on what we do in our educational system," he offered.

Gorham said this must involve making the business community more active in education and using business people from various fields to help educators answer the age-old question of students: "Why are we doing this?"

He gave the example of bringing an engineer into a math classroom to talk to students about all the ways he uses math in a given day to perform his job duties.

"Then our students won't think they'll only need trigonometry after they graduate if they end up teaching a trigonometry class sometime in their life," he related.

Why is this so important? Gorham gave another example, this one a personal story about the night his niece broke her nose playing sports and was taken to an area hospital for X-rays. He said the X-rays took a little longer than usual because the technician studying them was doing so at a bit of a distance — in Australia!

"Our kids are going into a global marketplace," he pointed out, "and as such they're competing with people from all around the world."

Therefore, he said education must go far beyond the memorization or recitation of facts.

"It's analysis and synthesis, knowing how to think," he explained. "That's the challenge for teachers today."

Gorham insisted that it's also critical for educators to go beyond books altogether. He said they must be able to explain to students that tattoos and piercings may seem "cool" today, but when it comes time to be hired by a major company like UPS "it ain't gonna happen."

"And, by the way, you shouldn't be texting when somebody's talking to you," he added.

"We're looking for business and industry to help us out," he summarized. "We need your help, but you also need our help because you rely upon a qualified workforce. But it has to be reciprocated."

"That's my passion," he offered. "Well, next to pizza. I do love a pepperoni pizza, too."

The program concluded with a presentation by students Anthony Tolerico and Conor Durkin on "Carbondale Area's Unsung Heroes," which highlighted some very impressive student achievements in such areas as the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science, Mock Trial Team, and Student Council.