“Rather than trying to think how we educate all of these students, I think ‘how can we create opportunities for learning?'”
Of all the difficult, complex questions we should be asking about the school experience at this moment, this may be the most important: Should our primary focus on “educating” children, or should it be on developing them as learners?
The current stock answer is obvious, isn’t it?
“Go to school and get an education.” The Department of Education. The Ed.D. Education Week. The National Education Association.
We don’t say “Go to school and become a learner.” We don’t have a federal or state Department of Learning. There is no National Learning Association.
We’ve always valued an “education” first and foremost. We work really hard, in fact, to “deliver” one to each and every child. And it’s always been pretty clearly defined what an “education” is: x many years of English and Science and Math and the rest. Passing a test or two. The granting of a diploma. These are the things that allow us to separate those that are “educated” from those that aren’t.
And don’t miss the powerful message in that word. “Educat-ed.” As in past tense. As in done, finished. You’ve learned what you need to learn. We’ve completed our work. Bring in the next group for us to process.
Increasingly, however, an “education” is coming under scrutiny. Businesses are starting to question whether an “education” is really preparation for work. Parents are starting to question whether an “education” is worth the cost. Kids who are newly “educated” are now competing for jobs that don’t require the “education” they received. (And that last is an interesting word as well, isn’t it?)
Could it be that this moment requires a shift away from “educating” students toward, as Mitch Resnick suggests, making sure kids leave us as learners?
I think the argument is compelling, especially in a world that is rife with huge, hairy, ongoing change. If I’m a business owner, do I care if my employees are “educated” as much as I care that they can do the work and adapt to a changing workplace? If I’m a patient, do I not want a doctor who is a learner first and foremost? And, importantly, if I’m a student (or the parent of a student) shouldn’t I want the adult in the room to be a voracious learner who can “create opportunities for learning” for me and my peers?
I’m not saying that there isn’t value in knowing certain things, in having some common understanding of the world. But being “educated” in the current contexts is no longer enough, nor should it be our primary goal. If we have not dedicated ourselves to develop a capacity and a love of learning in our kids first and foremost, no amount of education will serve them well.
(Image credit: Alan Levine)