There’s this interesting paradox that I live out and I am not the only one. In as much as I see some fundamental flaws in how we educate, I just spent the last month, half of my summer break, in school. Going to school to figure out how to fix/improve schooling. It sounds a little like going to war to end war. But I was not alone. I spent many hours discussing the many ways in which the education system is struggling with other graduate students, each with our own particular set of lenses set on a particular question or problem that has caught our attention. And paying for the privilege. Of schooling. So, what did we figure out? Nothing really. Yet. But I do have some great questions to consider.
Why are schools great places for some and not for others? I believe it was Mark Twain who said that he never let school get in the way of his education and while many have interpreted that to mean that he didn’t like schools, I think the delineation speaks to something fundamental in how we think about learning and the places we go to get educated. What if we thought of schools as places where we have the opportunity to learn as opposed to places where we are expected to meet particular outcomes? If we think of them as places that open the world to us as opposed to places that impose a world on us? Could a simple shift in our perspective make a difference or is there more to it?
One of the things that has fascinated me about so many of the gifted students that I have the privilege of working with is that they don’t let school get in the way. If they are interested in something, they go out and learn everything they can about it. If they have a particular talent, they spend hours developing it. Certainly there are times when in school they are being taught things that they have already learned, but even then there are some who find ways to take what they already know in unexpected directions. There’s nothing I enjoy more than when they share their escapades into the wide world of information and ideas with me. What is it that has allowed them to keep the “schooling” part of their education in perspective?
Because for others school is clearly getting in the way. Whether it stems from being misunderstood, frustrated by the lack of flexibility and meaningful work or struggling in social situations, school appears to be interfering with what is needed in order for some to feel like a successful learners. Sometimes it’s the pressure of proving or conforming to specific outcomes that feel unattainable or irrelevant. Other times it’s the inability to engage with material that does not seem pertinent to one’s own experience or level of expertise. My heart aches as they struggle. What would allow these students to keep the “schooling” part of their education in perspective?
What keeps me going back to school even when I know the system, like many others in our world, isn’t perfect? I love the dialogue that includes healthy debate around issues that are close to each of our hearts that helps me see other ways of being in the world. I love the stories that we share that help me to understand the diversity of our experiences and how they shape who we are. I love the challenge of trying to understand where my own questions come from and the best way to go about exploring them in a methodical and ethical way. I love discovering theorists and scholars who have explored the outer reaches of their own worlds to see what they could add to the story of why we are all here. It’s living in an imperfect world that drives me to keep learning and figuring out what it is that I can offer. Maybe it’s not a perfect system that we need. Maybe what we need is the unfailing belief in ourselves and others that we each have something to offer. If you’re looking for other perspectives on perfect worlds you might try clicking here or on the icon below!