Struggling to Thrive

Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing World by Valerie Hannon

Several years ago I subscribed to a newsletter put out by Education Re-Imagined, a non-profit organization that connects people and programs that work on the frontiers of educational innovation. It was through reading one of their recent newsletter issues I learned of this book, Thrive. Its co-authors are Valerie Hannon and Amelia Peterson.

Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing World Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing World

Hannon is co-founder of the Innovation Unit of Global Leader Partnership and Peterson, has a PhD in Education from Harvard University.

Thrive gives a research-based overview of existing evidence and case studies of innovative school programs world-wide with a framework of suggestions to realign educational goals towards creating conditions that promote “thriving.” First, the authors set about defining what they mean by “thriving.” They give four levels of thriving:

A. Global
B. Societal
C. Interpersonal
D. Intrapersonal

Then they identify four key questions:

1. How can all learners best prepare for economies with technology-driven opportunities and development?
2. What tasks can humans perform better than machines and conversely, what tasks can machines perform better than humans?
3. What knowledge and skills do humans need to shape and direct computing power?
4. How can people best be prepared to learn and relearn skills to do human work, rather than be second class robots?


There is a central theme throughout the book of generating a more sustainable relationship with the Earth and its resources in the future. The authors identify both economic globalization and migration as key issues effecting the future.

They prioritize a different relationship between humans and our environment as a key desired outcome. The authors make the claim that education’s purpose is not to merely position kids for wealth acquisition in the job marketplace.

Hannon provides ample school examples already creating conditions for thriving with descriptions of their programs. She discusses an Ecosystems Approach that addresses:

A. Equipping learners for a disrupted jobs/work landscape (published post-Covid)
B. Educating for building respectful relationships in diverse, technologized societies
C. Creating local sustainability endeavors that address problems in local communities
D. Providing real-life application of knowledge, addressing “learner agency”

I liked hearing about how innovative schools in others locations are already adressing and accomplishing these tasks. I would have liked to have seen more data about learner outcomes attached to this overview of innovation. More could be done to follow up on these outcomes. How well did students of these types of programs do on measured learning standards, and perhaps for the more established programs, how did the graduates measure in terms of life happiness, mental health, employability, and the broader goals of interpersonal and intrapersonal thriving as they became adults? Where results were available, it would have been nice to hear more of it although the lack of data is not the necessarily the fault of the author.

The book does accomplish the goal of helping the audience become aware of what is currently being done in schools across a broad range of issues to address global problems we face. Teachers interested in innovation and change will be interested in this book.



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