Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

I don’t get my news on Facebook and never will. It does help me stay connected with a small circle of family and friends that are important to me. As a baby boomer, I enjoy seeing photos of new grandchildren, special life events and anything having to do with learning, kids, and pets.

This past week, I glanced at a post on Facebook that compared the academic accomplishments of a few well-known cable news entertainers. The post pointed to credentials as trustworthy evidence of credibility. The blurb written across the post said; “If you don’t think education matters, then you probably got your news from the dropouts.”  The so-called “credible” news entertainer’s face was above (with listed credentials), and looming over the smaller photos of the so-called drop outs. Two words that immediately came to my mind were arrogance and ignorance.

The words “…education matters…” are what really caught my eye on this particular post.

What really matters?

It’s sad that we promote and brag about the educational caste system we’ve created and sustained over decades. Our society seems to thrive on a winners and losers mentality. Earned degrees, fame and fortune earn high praise and merit, while self-taught, out of the conventional school box thinkers and entrepreneurs are given less credibility. Why?

What makes one smart? How do we know? What do our students need to know and be able to do in order to succeed in their future?

Words of Wisdom

The quote below, is a smart man’s words of wisdom on this matter.

“…individuals will have to be able to function comfortably in a world that is always in flux. Knowledge will continue to increase at a dizzying rate. This means that a content-based curriculum, with a set body of information to be imparted to students, is entirely inappropriate.” – John Taylor Gatto

“In a healthy community, the teaching function belongs to everyone.” – John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor Gatto’s credibility does not lie in his earned degrees, but in his honesty and life experience working with young people. His credentials didn’t earn him the two-time title Teacher of the Year, the success of his students did. His various books, interviews and speeches didn’t elevate him to credible status, his relentless pursuit of educational freedom did. I appreciate his smart voice and the voice of others who bravely point us in a different direction when it comes to the the matter of education.

Education does matter, but it’s a matter of choice.

There’s not one way to learn, not one way to be smart and not one way to be accomplished. When we start acknowledging that there are many kinds of smarts, we’ll have learned the greatest lesson of all. Being smart has little to do with the number of years we spend in a classroom or the number of degrees displayed on our wall.

In a rapidly changing world, our young people will need the kind of thinking, reasoning, freedom, and creativity that schools can’t possibly provide. The set curriculum must be taught within the allotted time frame because there is a final test, a high stakes test, and of course, grades and grade point averages to tabulate. Freedom and spontaneity are not on the school’s agenda.

Real learning is real doing, not listening and regurgitating for a grade.

Schools don’t create conditions or circumstances that require the depth of thinking and reasoning needed to truly solve authentic problems because the sterile and contrived environment doesn’t allow for it.  School was never designed to foster or support true collaboration, experimentation, or innovation. It was designed to mass produce compliant workers who do what they are told. It hasn’t changed  much over the years. Even when schools market themselves as innovative and cutting edge, their efforts become outdated within a short period of time just like textbooks.

While students attempt to digest the spoon fed school formula, their young minds are wildly racing in a different direction. They have lots of questions, but no time for answers. They have lots of curiosity, but no time to use their imagination. They have ideas that no one really wants to hear. Their task is to pay attention, follow directions, listen and repeat, do homework, take tests and pass to the next grade level. They are not self directing anything in school but are expected to have grit and perseverance while there.

The old school construct is stuck in a time warp.

We are trying to deliver what many call a world-class education, in an outdated school paradigm. If school focused on truly building and supporting critical thinkers, innovators, or entrepreneurs, the system would be better designed to facilitate that approach. It’s not.

A wealth of knowledge is available to young people beyond the four walls of a classroom. This is not an indictment against teachers, they just find themselves stuck in an old paradigm. Many teachers do attempt to bring the world into their classrooms or to visit the world outside as best they can given the confines of time and mandates.

Smart teachers know what they don’t know, and if given the opportunity and freedom, they can offer so much more to their students beyond their own skill and knowledge set. This might require more field trips, more online, real-time learning, more shared responsibility and most of all, more student choice. This is a challenge for most schools, but not impossible.

The adage, “where there’s a will, there’s a way” seems appropriate for schools to consider.

The question remains, Where is the will?






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