The Reflective Educator

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A Democratic Education

Joe Bower posted this video on his blog.

Joe writes:

If we really cared about real accountability, we would first ask if kids like school, and then we would have to care how they answer. Until then, kids will continue to be victims of a system that cares more about sustaining its current self than serving students.

Here is my response which I left as a comment on his blog:

I love this video Joe. It frames what I believe to be true about education in a way which is catchy, interesting to watch, and (I feel) hard to argue with.

When we share these ideas with other people, they keep going back to the same argument: how will we know kids are learning?

So I think our challenge is to come up with an answer to that argument which parents will accept without having to make too much of a radical change in their life.

I mean, I know my son is learning because I spend a lot of time with him and I keep track of the changes I see. I know he’s learning because I listen to the questions he has. I know he’s learning because I catch him trying to read (he’s 4). I know he’s learning because I’m involved deeply in his life. I want this to always be true, although over time I also want him to really learn the skill of autonomy, so I want to be a participant in his learning, rather than the sole director of it.

Our system of education absolves parents of the responsibility of paying attention to their kids learning needs by giving them easy numbers and letters to look at which are substitutes for the measures we already have for learning. You will know your child is learning if you are a part of the process, and pay attention.

Our economic system requires that parents work harder than should be necessary to support themselves, often leaving them without the time to support their kids emotionally. Something is flawed with a society which devalues the relationship between parents & kids and suggests that only a stranger can best teach your child everything they need to know. 

The transformation in our education system will happen when we give students real choice about what they learn, when we take away the barriers to developing individuality, and when we stop pretending that it is possible to carefully select the curriculum students will learn from the millions of useful things they could be learning. One size fits all doesn’t work. There is no other industry I can think of which believes that every one of their "customers" has the same needs.