As a regular reader of the Cooperative Catalyst blog, I am accustomed to reading thought-provoking posts that stay with me, leaving me optimistic about the state of education. Today’s post, “The Definition of Education,” is something that will stay with more throughout the coming days and perhaps longer.
The post, written by a 17-year-old student, also makes me optimistic not because of the content, which is a little disconcerting, but because one young man has a vision about what education should look like from a student point of view. That vision is inspiring.
From his viewpoint, the current system of education is based on our need to define young people, label them, and put them in neat little boxes that make our jobs easier. This system is simply a microcosm of the world outside the classroom. In this world, it’s easy to qualify, quantify, and evaluate everything because we group and define every person, place, and thing. This system is neat, tidy, and easy to manage—until something doesn’t fit.
In the case of education, this something is a student.
We try to define him, but he is indefinable. He doesn’t fit in our box, so we label him “undefined learning disabilities,” and send him down the path to failure, beyond hope.
According to the post:
“This is a horrid injustice to students because if education’s definitions define a student, then he or she will just conform to such definitions; and therefore, the student essentially puts him/herself along a track that potentially limits ingenuity, potential and creativity.”
But sometimes we don’t.
If we keep moving forward to embrace individualized learning and alternative educational models that celebrate diversity of thought, students will be freed to dream big dreams. If we give students the means and incentives to take responsibility for their learning and their lives, they can accomplish things we haven’t yet envisioned. If we untie the hands of the teachers, they can guide students to develop their unique skills and embrace learning that continues throughout their lifetimes.
It’s time to step away from defining students, and defining what the new model of education should look like. You are in a unique place to do just that by lining up with students, for students, and for our future.
If you could change one thing about the current model of K-12 education, what would it be? What have you done to erase labels that serve schools more than students? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.