Thursday, January 24, 2013

A well-educated public?

Sometimes a reader will ask a really good question, and I get to advance my own thoughts in the process of articulating an answer. Chris C. commented on Can Learning Be Joyful...

"How do you reconcile your ideas about allowing kids to pursue their own passions (which I agree with), with that grander idea of a well educated public?" (for the full comment, see the post.)

and here is my response (slightly edited for clarity):

Hi, Chris, thanks for "throwing me a bone" to chew on. The fastest answer is that right now, by pushing education at kids regardless of their interests, we are NOT getting an educated public. The well-educated public is my ideal as well. If we do honor and support the interests and passions of children, we WILL reap the benefits of having not only an educated public but an empowered and connected one.

Big Picture Learning, the secondary school model developed by Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor, is based on a foundation of following kids' passions. And because they work very hard to develop a respectful culture, it doesn't matter if teachers think that interest seems un-scholarly! They help them pursue it. It could be doing nails. It could be a rap group. They make sure and find internships and projects that will help kids develop those interests. But here's the never stops there. Kids who are allowed to open their own doors NEVER stop there. A girl who studied Tupac Shakur went on to be one of a friendship tour to South Africa and is an activist for human rights. The girl who wanted to be a hair stylist went on to be a youth leader and will probably have her own spa someday. These are all examples from the various books about Big Picture.

Neuroscience, behavior science, metacognition, all these areas of study tell us something we already know: that people learn best when they are interested. Simple. If you are allowed to follow your interest you become connected.

Also, not to make this into a book or anything, but the curriculum right now, because of NCLB and the Common Core, is morbidly obese. We teach kids a very very little about an awful lot but dig deeply into nothing. Surely we can afford to drop a couple things that individual kids show no interest in, when their own interests might lead them there and they'll learn the stuff better that way...and the disregard for what they really do want to learn is causing them to disconnect from education in general?

Thanks for asking such a good question and let's keep the dialogue going!


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1 comment:

  1. Interesting conversation. I am a huge Littky fan and think the advisor driven coop-model is very successful at the MET, but have not seen it done to the degree in other schools in the network (would love to know of others....not just big pic schools but big pic schools that are doing what the met is in relative community).

    As for passion driven learning, a shining star is the Edvisions Collective. As models go, their advisory-student directed pbl-exhibition-and beyond work does not have equal in depth and breadth of allowing young people to be in control of their learning process.

    The Well Educated public piece. What do we want, and what does that look like? I am versed (as that goes) in critical education (Michael Apple, Illich, Bowles and Gintis) and interested in questions of equity and reality. Our conversation on learning change needs to be grounded (I argue) in Social (historicaland cultural),, environmental, economic "and" futures thinking. If we are talking systems, and bypassing those systems in education....I suggest re-visiting Bowles and Gintis "Schooling in Capitalist America", Tyack, "The One Best System" for historical analysis, and then Anything from Michael Apple (Though I think his 2012 release gives erudite arguments to this discussion) and Illich Deschooling Society for futures thinking (in this realm).

    My few cents,