I’ve Got Three Problems

Of course, making New Year’s resolutions is nothing new. Perhaps keeping them is. At least for me.

If you know me well, you know I am an idealist. I usually wake with Big Ideas that go onto lists and into Whatsapp convos with my blogging partners. But lately, actually, for a long while now, my first thought of every day has been:  What is it you want?

I do not have an answer (at least not one simple enough for just one blog post), but I do have a pretty clear idea of what I do not want. We can all probably make that list — easy.

I read Seth Godin’s blog pretty much daily. He’s a marketing guru, and I find useful info in his short quippy posts. On the last day of 2018, he published  Hilbert’s list.  It begins like this:

In 1900, David Hilbert published a list of 23 problems that he proposed would be the important ones for mathematicians to solve in the upcoming century. That list led to a focused effort that lasted a century, and the vast majority of the problems have been fully or partially solved. Ignoramus et ignorabimus is a foolish statement. We can know, and one day, we will.

Technology (the technology of connection, of devices and of knowledge) can create a surplus. The cost of light, of transport and of food has dropped by orders of magnitude in just a few lifetimes. Most of us waste electricity, water and other essentials in ways that would have been astonishing just a generation ago. Privileged populations go to the doctor for illnesses that wouldn’t even be a topic for discussion among those with less access to the surplus that we’ve created in access to healthcare.

Surely, we can build a better future with technology instead of focusing on autonomous drone delivery of a latte 9 blocks away in San Francisco.

As we enter a new year, one in which technology promises to move faster than ever, it’s worth considering what our 23 problems might be.

Then Godin suggests we make a list of the problems we want solved, personally and/or globally.  He states, “Technology doesn’t have to be high-tech. It can simply be the hard work of finding generous solutions to important problems, big or small.”

And this made me think about teaching, specifically teaching our readers and writers to be better readers and writers. I could probably come up with a list of 23 problems, but I think a concerted effort on just three would change literacy education as we know it. Thus, we change the lives of our students — and potentially, the world.

  1. Equitable systems that validate, celebrate, and allow educators to teach into the personal and unique strengths and needs of each learner.
  2. Authentic literacy experiences, including easy access to a wide array of vibrant engaging books by diverse authors our readers want to read; and using these texts to teach writing — the kind of writing our writers want to write, and readers in the world want to read.
  3. On-going professional learning at every level of literacy education, which builds content-specific skill so administrators and teachers know how to engage and instruct readers and writers through authentic literacy experiences.

As we step into 2019, I commit to adding my voice, to pushing back against the status quo, to advocating for students and teachers. As Godin says, “Our next steps might be far more effective than simple resolutions, which are easily ignored or pushed aside. We can work toward dignity, toward access, toward seeing the world as it is…” Or perhaps more importantly, toward seeing the world as it needs to be.


Amy Rasmussen is excited for the New Year and looks fondly back at 2018. She made some important career moves, changed homes, welcomed two new grandsons, and met her reading goal of completing 66 books. Follow her on Twitter @amyrass


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