What is Beyond School? An Intro to Integrated Education

What is Beyond School? An Intro to Integrated Education

Beyond School: Building a School of the Future

Beyond School has been designed to educate for the 21st century. We believe in a holistic approach, utilizing available technology to supplement and fully develop the 6 pillars of education (more on that later). We are:

  • Partnering world class subject matter experts with self directed learners to forge paths as individual and inspiring as the humans crafting them
  • Providing a framework where educators can innovate and iterate, free from the shackles of an outmoded system
  • Creating a collaborative educational environment where learning is happening everywhere and learning is happening always. In the real world. For now, and the future.

It’s a philosophy of integrated education that transcends time and space providing a framework; within which individuals create learning pathways that meet their needs now, and for the future. 

The Current System

The primary shortcoming of our current system of institutional education is that it was designed for a particular moment in time and it does not address the world that we are living in now, or that is emerging ahead of us. Infrastructure built to serve the era of the Industrial Revolution has proven itself woefully inadequate in preparing people for today’s world of work and life in the explosion of the Tech Revolution, not to mention whatever is coming next. This spring, when COVID-19 ground the wheels of the educational establishment to a halt, the failures and limitations of the school system were thrown into the spotlight and people who had never previously considered alternatives started asking, “Is there a better way?”

Before we can step forward it helps to look back. 

Often when people convene to talk about “education” they are limited by the framework that has constrained the last few generations of students. Our modern systems of education are only the most recent development in an experiment with mass schooling. Over the long arc of human history, people were most often socialized and educated within family and community groups with a heavy emphasis on the practical skills they would need to succeed and build upon the success of their parents. Before the nineteenth century, education was highly individualized, specific, and organized locally. The system wasn’t equitable. It wasn’t suited to the explosion of technology and progress of the industrial revolution. And it was limited to the knowledge available within a community.

The big win of the adoption of mass schooling was the preparation of a homogenous workforce with the skills adequate to the technological leap of the industrial revolution. The education system fueled the industrial and economic explosion. Public schools, for the first time, created opportunity across the economic and ability spectrum and created a ladder for education and advancement that previously didn’t exist.

But while the world and technology continued to evolve forward, the education system became sloth in a race with cheetahs.

The system we are left with is preparing kids for a world that hasn’t existed in decades.

The Millennials and Gen Z are living examples of the struggle in early adulthood when it becomes clear that the social compact of the educational system you were raised in simply can’t deliver once you hit the real world.

Today, we find ourselves in a world where public education and most versions of mass schooling are, with the best of intentions, failing the students they have a mandate to serve. What schools teach and how they teach it has failed to keep pace with the rapidly changing real world needs of humanity.

Rather than trying to “fix” education, we’re at a point in history where reimagining it from the ground up is both possible and the most promising solution.

The fundamental question we must first ask is: What is the purpose of education?

The answer to this question must stand the test of time and location, because learning is happening everywhere, and it is happening always.

The purpose of education is certainly NOT to download a particular content block of academic knowledge to a student. Everything we need to know is now at our fingertips and on demand through the magic of the internet. “Hey Siri…”

This means that any “curriculum” we develop is outmoded almost the instant that it’s implemented. The most technologically forward facing curriculum delivered to a middle school student today will be laughably antiquated by the time they graduate from high school.

So, what then should we be teaching? What is the purpose of education in a post industrial world?

At Beyond School, we believe that there are Six Pillars of an Integrated Education that stand the test of time and that should be the focus of any education:

The Six Pillars of an Integrated Education are:

  • Critical thinking
  • Practical skills
  • Philosophical reasoning
  • Humanity
  • Self management
  • How to learn

In order to determine whether these are accurate let’s ask three questions:

  1. Were these pillars true to an education 1000 years ago?
  2. Do these pillars hold up now?
  3. Will the advances of the future still rest comfortably on these pillars?

Everything we learn fits within one of these six pillars, and within those pillars exist “learning tracks” that add breadth and depth to the pillars themselves and the life built upon them.

This is where modern education is falling short.

The focus is so heavily on developing the right curriculum or body of content to deliver to students, en masse, that we are neglecting whole person development that will allow learners to adapt and grow forward even after the particular body of knowledge has become obsolete. 

The path forward isn’t to ensure that every child can quote the same passage from Shakespeare, manipulate geometric formulas, or even code in the most recent language. 

The path forward is in equipping people, young and old, with the mental, emotional, and social skills required to acquire and manipulate any body of knowledge they need to build forward, as individuals and as part of the collective.

Acknowledging that what an individual needs to learn is going to be affected by WHEN they are learning, WHERE they are learning, and their particular stage of life; but everything we need to learn at any given stage fits into one or more of the pillars of an education.

Within these pillars exist six other segments, or learning tracks, that cover the breadth of human experience over a lifetime. 

The Learning Tracks are:

  • Building Blocks of Knowledge
  • Mentorship/Leadership/Parenting
  • Business & Career
  • Money & Finance
  • Self Development
  • Health & Wellness

Within each of these learning tracks also exist all six pillars of education.

The pillar of Critical Thinking, for example, will involve learning the building blocks of how to think critically, how it applies to a person’s ability to lead (a family, business, community, or simply their own lives). It directly applies to business and career development and will be a factor in managing money and finance according to the individuals goals. Critical thinking will also be central to making choices about self management, one’s role in community, and managing physical and mental wellness.

Conversely, within the Learning Track of Money & Finance a person needs to learn to think critically, based on their philosophical understanding of the world economies, while learning the practical skills of economic management. Thus allowing them to develop the kind of life and impact they wish to have upon humanity which flows from their own self management of their finances as they continue to learn and grow forward to adapt to the changes across the arc of their lifetime. 

We believe that these intertwined pillars and learning tracks are at the core of a successful and ongoing education.

They have very little to do with WHAT is taught within the framework, and everything to do with HOW and WHY we choose to teach, or learn, a particular body of knowledge at a particular time.

The current system has a disproportionate emphasis on practical skills (the WHAT we are learning). This is, perhaps, the least important aspect of an education.

WHAT a person learns varies wildly based on where they are in history.

Use of a slide rule was an essential mathematical skill in the 1950’s, most students had never even heard of one, fifty years later. 

WHAT a person learns varies wildly based on where they are in the world.

French is essential when one lives in Canada. Less so if they live in Guatemala.

WHAT a person learns is highly variable depending on when in their lifespan they are learning.

A three year old is developing different building blocks of knowledge than a thirty year old is.

This is why one-size fits all education never has.

A focus on well defined curriculum blocks will always fail, because it falls short of preparing a person for the future that awaits them. 

A focus on the Pillars of Education allows us to stack whatever particular body of content that is useful, timely, and applicable to our particular place in time, location, and life stage and continue to build a foundation that will both serve us now and allow us to grow into the future.

What Does Getting Beyond School Look Like?

There is a third path emerging, between industrial mass schooling, and the Lone Ranger approach of exclusive homeschooling. Fueled by technology, it allows students to forge highly individual educational paths within communities, both in the real and virtual worlds. It is Beyond School.

Rather than school being a training ground for the “real world,” education happens through immersion in the real world.

Instead of contrived lessons focused on successfully clearing imaginary hurdles in standardized testing, meaningful project based learning leads naturally towards outcomes based measurements that have tangible value in the world. 

Students of all ages can simultaneously gather the knowledge they need for the future while having a meaningful impact on their present world. 

Imagine a class of students, spread across the globe, who have self selected into a group focused on solving a real world problem, like plastics in the ocean, energy efficiency, equitable food distribution, or the language barrier. Irrespective of age. 

For the first time in the history of the world, this isn’t a pipe dream. It’s not only possible, it’s Tuesday afternoon in a world Beyond School, for people of all ages.

For young learners:

A greater emphasis on self-direction in both educational choices and self development in general. Getting outside of the age segregated, gatekeeper models of learning and embracing the world as a classroom with learning happening everywhere and always.

For adult learners:

This might mean a self-forged path to career change, or a refocus in the post COVID work world. When future facing companies like Google and Apple publicly announce that they no longer require a college degree for new hires, the handwriting is on the wall of an antiquated system.

For parents:

Stepping into the driver’s seat of their children’s educations and co-creating individual paths that support the passions and purposes unique to each child. We’re working with a broad spectrum of families creating hybrid and totally unique world class educations for their children.

For the educational establishment:

Shifting the paradigm and practice away from the “tried and true” models of education and an openness to reimagining what a modern real world educational structure might look like. The sooner the better.

At Beyond School, we’re building the school of the future.

We’re partnering world class subject matter experts with self directed learners to forge paths as individual and inspiring as the humans crafting them.

We’re creating a framework where educators can innovate and iterate, free from the shackles of an outmoded system.

We’re creating a collaborative educational environment where learning is happening everywhere and learning is happening always. In the real world. For now, and the future.

Racism. The Question Is: What Are You Going to Do About It?

Racism. The Question Is: What Are You Going to Do About It?

Was anyone else glued to the news in horror watching the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd?

Anyone still grieving the death of Ahmaud Arbery? Breonna Taylor?

Are you still pissed about a Harvard graduate, writer, former Marvel editor, current biomedical editor for Health Science Communications, and board member of the Audubon Society who was threatened by a white woman who called the police on him for asking her to please leash her dog in Central Park? 

(And if you’re not, why not?)

Perhaps you’re feeling powerless… why on earth – despite all the protests and uprisings, despite the ongoing efforts of the people around you (especially your Black friends and colleagues) – are these deaths still happening?

Grief & outrage are NOT the same as action.

And (even more) action is required.

A lot of the white people I know don’t know where to start. It feels overwhelming. Sometimes it feels scary. Intentionally dismantling a system you’ve benefited from your whole life might feel like giving up a big piece of your pie.

But, what if it could feel like making more pie for everyone?

De-Schooling Anti-Racism

When people begin to move ‘beyond school’ we often encourage them to step outside of the infrastructure they’ve known their whole lives and spend a period of time intentionally refusing to participate in the trappings of the system. This is called De-Schooling.

It’s a time to detox, to breathe fresh air, to think clearly and intentionally about where they are and where they SHOULD be. It’s also a time to begin thinking, learning, and re-educating ourselves in a more holistic, integrated approach to learning together. It’s a time to shift your thinking and mindset and, most importantly, your perspective.

It’s hard to see a thing clearly until you choose to step outside of it.

De-schooling Anti-Racism involves an intentional choice to step outside of Systemic Racism.

De-schooling Anti-Racism involves doing the work of asking ourselves the hard questions:

  • Why have we let it get to this point? 
  • Why have we not moved against police brutality, as white people, harder and sooner
  • Why have we allowed a system in which people with less power are actively murdered on the regular by people with more power? 
  • Why do we tolerate and gloss over the myriad of micro aggressions that happen around us, daily? And that we, as white people, are still guilty of doing ourselves.
  • Why are we willing to raise our kids within a system that perpetuates violence and inequality without putting a stop to it, here and now?
  • Why are we not willing to be the change?

As the dominant power (economic, political, social and otherwise) why are WE as white people allowing this and creating an environment where it’s acceptable, or if not acceptable, at least tolerated? 

In her excellent article, Upping the Ante on Anti-Racism, Sharon Hurley Hall says this:

If you’ve been Black all your life, as I have, you know that racism isn’t going away anytime soon. If you’re a white anti-racist, you may know this too, or you’re catching on fast. Every day, we all have a choice about whether we’re working against racism or overtly or tacitly supporting it. …The question is: what are we going to do about it? 

-Sharon Hurley-Hall, Upping the Ante on Anti-Racism

Sharon’s Anti-Racism Bootcamp is an excellent place to start.

Led by Sharon Hurley-Hall and supported by Lea Jovy-Ford, this is an online training Bootcamp for anyone committed to understanding and eradicating the damaging biases we still have that perpetuate dangerous actions and reactions towards others, based upon their skin colour.

If you’re lucky (read: Aware), it may start to become more obvious to you how riddled with assumptions, beliefs and biases you are, based upon your reactions and responses to the people you come across in life, personally and professionally. If it isn’t obvious, then this needs your attention and work.

This is about becoming a better person. And understanding that this WILL empower you to navigate your worlds (personal and professional) with more positive impact for yourself and for others, both online and off.


  • Examine the unconscious biases you still hold, that may be unconsciously, unknowingly and deeply buried and how this is perpetuating our racist culture.
  • Understand what being anti-racist actually means, and what impact being anti-racist will mean for your own life.
  • Learn how to identify anti-racism in our world, both personally and professionally, and how to address it when we see it. 
  • Make a commitment to being actively anti-racist, in the here and now and for the long haul.

The question is: ARE YOU READY?

Looking for Anti-Racism Resources for Kids?

We’ve got this article full of Anti-Racism Resources for Families. And Sharon Hurley-Hall also teaches a fantastic six week short course on Anti-Racism for Kids.

P.S. If you’ve got to here and you’re wondering “but what’s in it for me?” when it comes to dismantling racism for everyone, we’ll be covering that next time…

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