All in the Family: Daniel Taylor and Luke Taylor-IdeBy Jill Anderson
Education has arguably become the life’s work of the Taylor family. When Luke Taylor-Ide, Ed.M.’12, went home to West Virginia after completing his Ed School degree, it wasn’t surprising that his father, Daniel Taylor, Ed.M.’69, Ed.D.’72, would seek his help in brainstorming his latest venture – University of the World, a global university focused on a community-based approach in the classroom. After all, the topic of education is a common one at home, especially around the dinner table. “It’s not a subject that you can’t take home with you,” says Taylor-Ide.
The family’s work in education stretches back several decades to the work of grandparents, and even great-grandparents, who traveled the world as missionaries educating people about health, pioneering the field of international health. Later Taylor founded multiple education-related organizations including Future Generations and Future Generations Graduate School, an international nonprofit geared toward community-led development that now serves 19 countries.
It was Taylor-Ide’s work in India with Future Generations that forged his own path in education. Although he hadn’t intended to apply to Harvard – preferring to look for a school that he could call his own – the flexibility of HGSE’s Special Studies Program was highly appealing. “I had significant gaps in my own knowledge and I needed to figure out where I was headed,” Taylor-Ide says, noting that the program allowed him to create a dynamic learning experience focused on social education, particularly the role cultural values play in social systems.
Since graduating, Taylor-Ide has been using what he learned at HGSE to teach SEED-SCALE, a UNICEF task force chaired by his grandfather, Carl Taylor — a Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health graduate. The SEED-SCALE method harnesses the energy and effort of community to foster education and change within a community.
Before Taylor-Ide attended HGSE, he witnessed the power of SEED-SCALE in Afghanistan, where he implemented an intervention that led to policy changes in the country, involving educating women on prenatal care. Part of the belief behind SEED-SCALE is that the traditional approach of putting money into a problem doesn’t necessarily lead to sustainable changes in communities.
As Taylor explains, SEED-SCALE research has shown that communities become more invested when they learn together, through each other, and then make an effort to sustain an intervention on their own. “The work is really about mobilizing people,” he says.
Although Taylor-Ide didn’t directly study SEED-SCALE at HGSE, he says that his work with Professors Monica Higgins (on the “case-method”) and Arthur Kleinman (of Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Harvard Medical School) helped shape his own teaching today at Future Generations Graduate School. Taylor-Ide even created a teaching tool to spread the word.
While SEED-SCALE has been an influence for much of the work by the Taylor family, it has also been a “guiding process” behind the latest venture, University of the World (UOW), which aims to globalize higher education by opening opportunities to the world’s most underutilized asset – the 100 million secondary school graduates not attending college. “Higher education has a big challenge,” Taylor says, pointing to escalating tuitions and continuing exclusivity in college admissions as impediments to students using higher education as an avenue from poverty to middle class. The current model in higher education is broken, thus University of the World picks up where traditional universities and even virtual universities end.
“Higher education really needs to be life long,” Taylor says. “You don’t want to go to a campus or a computer, but have higher education be a part of a learning process already in motion, as well as find ways to make it available to all people.”
Admission to UOW is open to any high school graduate anywhere in the world. Part of what makes UOW unique is that, once accepted, a student develops his or her own learning plan, building on the skills that he or she already has. Unlike traditional higher education, the emphasis at UOW is placed on “collaborative learning” built on a student’s skill. The learning will be community-based conducted by students via smartphones. “The beginning is also the end,” Taylor says. “Students design the curricula so as to enable them to reach skill competency at international standard.”
For that reason, the coursework will focus on the promotion of healthier homes, food security, challenges of poverty, security, access to world knowledge, and sustainable local change. In the end, the hope is that UOW graduates will learn more effectively, and create income-producing skills and lifelong learning resources.
“New universities do not start overnight, or over a couple years,” Taylor says. However, he expects to begin a pilot course by the end of 2014.
In the meantime, father and son will continue to work together on education whether at the dinner table or a formal meeting, even if their familiarity sometimes does cause disagreements.
“We have a lot of arguments,” Taylor admits. But unlike many professionals, Taylor-Ide notes, “It’s not an option to cut ties.”