A few weeks ago, I received a tip to check into a project at the University of Akron called “One World Academy.” Soon, I found that the university had registered that domain name–actually, oneworldacademy.us–and the name “One World Academy” appeared in a slide presentation for the updated Vision 2020 strategic plan (page 75).
From there, it wasn’t hard to learn that President Scott Scarborough championed a project called “One World Schoolhouse” during his tenure at the University of Toledo. It was even on his curriculum vita. The project was a clearinghouse in partnership with Schoolcraft College and was helmed by William McCreary, who was a board member of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission, which had given millions in start-up funds to the university and affiliated groups in its role as a state economic development fund focused on high-tech industries
The name of the project comes from a book with that title, “One World Schoolhouse,” written by Khan Academy founder Sal Khan.
In an announcement for Khan’s visit to Toledo and the project itself, Scarborough was quoted saying, “We believe, as Salman Khan does, that the ideal model of education, both today and in the future, is a balanced combination of personalized education that is facilitated and enhanced by technology and experiential learning that takes many forms, including advanced simulation and educational games.”
Actually, Khan’s chief argument is for self-directed, self-paced learning, but that philosophical nuance seems to be missing from the goal Scarborough had in mind, which was creating a clearinghouse for educators and tech companies around the globe working to advance learning models.
The Akron schoolhouse would be an actual schoolhouse, according to documents released by the university, for K-12 students both on the main campus and at satellite locations. In the 455 pages, which I am still combing through, it appears university officials held meetings at the Zoar Schoolhouse over the summer to discuss the idea, which would put students from the LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education in charge of classrooms under professional guidance, similar to the functioning of a teaching hospital.
This “One World Schoolhouse” initiative is being spearheaded by Ian Schwarber, a student in the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics pursuing his Master’s Degree in Political Science. His email signature indicates he is serving as Scarborough’s “special projects” coordinator, but he lists himself as Resource Director at Center for Experiential Learning, Entrepreneurship & Civic Engagement on his LinkedIn page.
There he also notes “…I am in charge of originating and leading campus initiatives, organizing special programming and events, and managing team projects directly for that close friend, Jeff Hoffman, the Founding Director of the Center. Together, we execute one of President Scott Scarborough’s lynchpin enterprises as we re-introduce our extraordinary institution of higher learning to the community, and the world.”
In one email, Schwarber reports back to Scarborough:
They need clarity on whether there is someone in mind for the headmaster/principal or whether you want them to choose someone. They also want to know if you have a job description in mind for that person, or if you want them to develop it. Finally, they need to know how much that person will be compensated. Dr. Clark intimated that she gave you a working budget with a line item for the TEACHER, but not for the HEADMASTER. SO, they will need funding for that position. They can do whatever you want, including positioning an interim headmaster, i.e., someone with a principals license. Up to this point, they thought you had someone in mind that you would both be appointing, and paying. They seek clarity on exactly what your description of the teacher is, and what credentials that person might have/look like.
To which Scarborough responded, “They don’t need to focus on the headmaster position—you or Jeff can serve that role until the school grows in enrollment.”
This may prove to be an excellent idea. But there are plenty of questions still, including the big one: Why is the University of Akron trying to start a K-12 school on campus when, according to federal statistics on graduation rates and student debt, it is struggling to meet the responsibilities of its own academic mission?