Three girls makes buttons in a high school classroom.

Creating Space for Change by Asking, “Why?”

A new video series engages millions in questioning longstanding education practices that are ripe for a rethink.

This post was updated in October 2019 with two new additions to the "Ask Why?" video series

Sometimes, a first step to catalyze change is creating ways for people to see old things with new eyes. If we’ve been doing things a certain way for as long as anyone can remember, it’s easy to forget that the status quo is actually a choice, or that we have the power to make different choices.

Recently, Barr’s Education Team partnered with colleagues at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to support a series of short videos aimed at sparking new conversations and thinking about some of the ways we approach education in this country that – when looked at anew – don’t make much sense.

It’s easy to forget that the status quo is actually a choice – and that we have the power to make different choices.

The series, titled, “Ask Why?” was produced by 180 Studio in partnership with Education Reimagined, which brought content expertise, and ATTN: an issues-driven media company that averages 2 billion monthly impressions and 25 million monthly engagements across social media. Rather than focus only on creating high-quality content and trying to draw visitors to see and engage with it on our own communications channels, we hoped ATTN: would carry it to where its target audiences were already active and engaged.

The results? In their first three months, these first four videos have been viewed nearly six million times (three times our goal), with over 200,000 engagements. We invite you to take a look as well, and to join the conversation on Facebook via the links below:

When we know all students learn at different speeds and in different ways, why do schools still separate students by age?

Join the conversation asking, “Why Ages?” on Facebook.

If we care about building understanding and mastery, why do schools still test on memorization?

Join the conversation asking, “Why Memorization?” on Facebook.

When grades only ever tell part of the story, and can even be damaging to students’ confidence and motivation, why do we still put so much emphasis on them?

Join the conversation asking, “Why Grades? on Facebook

When research, experience, and common sense all recognize how effective and meaningful learning can be in the real world, why do schools still mainly treat learning like an “indoor sport”?

Join the conversation asking, “Why Classrooms?” on Facebook.

Children ask it all the time – “Why?” As adults, perhaps we should more. With this experiment, we learned how asking “Why?” – even in a sixty-second video – can spark broad interest and engagement that invites new thinking, new ideas, and new approaches.


Why do Carnegie Units still reign supreme in our education system?

Join the conversation asking, “Why Carnegie Units?” on Facebook.

School's out for summer. Why is that, exactly?

Join the conversation asking, “Why 180 Days?” on Facebook.

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