More and more people today are becoming dissatisfied with the education offered up in many public and conventional private schools. With the proliferation of charter schools, most employing an even more rigid, one size fits all, test driven approach, many parents, educators and others are either actively resisting-as the opt out movement is doing, or striking out on their own in an attempt to offer a more student centered, holistic and flexible approach to education; one that fosters autonomy, self direction, and critical thinking resulting in students who question the way things are and imagine new ways of doing things.
We celebrate these same qualities later in students’ lives yet squash them in so many primary and secondary schools. So many young people must wait until they are nearing or already in adulthood to begin cultivating them, if they ever do. Instead of requiring ever more rigor in the usual subject areas, we should be creating environments in which children have more autonomy and the freedom to imagine, create, think critically, collaborate, and get actively involved in their communities at much younger ages.
Amazing things will happen if schools celebrate students for their creativity and imagination, and provide them access to the experiences that will help them find their true callings. Keeping kids in school 8-10 hours a day with 2-3 hours of homework a night is not the answer. We need to work smarter, not harder. And working smarter means leveraging the qualities in kids that are special and meaningful and can’t be duplicated or outsourced. It means releasing their innate talents, creativity, and imagination, so they keep their passion for learning and life.
If we look at who is leading innovation in most areas of society today, it’s individuals whose unique talents, skills, and abilities were nurtured and who were given the opportunity to pursue their passions. As Sir Ken Robinson, author and creativity expert with the most viewed TED talk ever, says in The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything –“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed–it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”
Following this path will be much harder in some ways than the current path we’re on, and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to measure success with the tools we now use, but we need to believe in the power and benefits that will come when we support every person for who they are including their desire to pursue their passions and interests throughout their lifetimes.