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Authoring Their Own Education

There is so much right in this New York Times op-ed piece that I won’t fault them for the title: Let Kids Rule the School.

Starting with this totally accurate assessment of our current education system.

IN a speech last week, President Obama said it was unacceptable that “as many as a quarter of American students are not finishing high school.” But our current educational approach doesn’t just fail to prepare teenagers for graduation or for college academics; it fails to prepare them, in a profound way, for adult life.

We want young people to become independent and capable, yet we structure their days to the minute and give them few opportunities to do anything but answer multiple-choice questions, follow instructions and memorize information. We cast social interaction as an impediment to learning, yet all evidence points to the huge role it plays in their psychological development.

That’s why we need to rethink the very nature of high school itself.

Unfortunately, the policies of this administration, and most of their business-backed supporters, doesn’t really change anything about the “current educational approach”.

Anyway, most of the column describes an experiment in which a small group of high school students were allowed to create their own curriculum, with consultation from a guidance counselor and advice from subject area teachers, including evaluating each others’ work.

It’s a nice story, one with a happy ending where all the students involved were more motivated to learn and are doing well back in the “normal” school program.

But I’m not at all saying we should do a 180 from the way most high schools are run and allow students to rule in place of the teachers.

However, we absolutely need to include kids as full partners in designing their own education, working with educators and parents to create learning experiences that are meaningful and exceed the requirements for what it means to be well educated in the 21st century.

And I couldn’t write a better conclusion to this rant than this one by the author.

We have tried making the school day longer and blanketing students with standardized tests. But perhaps children don’t need another reform imposed on them. Instead, they need to be the authors of their own education.

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Education Isn’t the Answer

1 Comment

  1. AJ

    I couldn’t agree more – students definitely need more control over their studies to assure that they get what they need to prepare for the stage after high school. They also need much, much less testing emphasis.

    One of my students recently interviewed a woman who emigrated from Romania, and in Romania, they had three options for school past grade 9. They could either apply to a math/science high school or a humanities high school or attend a basic skills high school that would help them learn what they needed to transition straight into the work force or an industrial career. I think that a varied system like that could work well here, too.

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