What is School For?

Our family completed the dreaded Parent-Teacher-Conference for two of our children. The teacher gives feedback on how our boys are measuring up at this stage of the school year. 

I didn’t like what I heard. Not because my boys are disobedient and rude to their teachers and classmates. They are “angels” according to their teachers. I was distraught not because they were struggling in learning the required subjects and disciplines. For the most part, they are keeping up, and learning what is required at a competent level. 

My angst is I wanted to hear more. 

I wanted to hear about their curiosity in the classroom. A thirst for knowledge and wonder in the world God made and invites us to play. Obedience to rules and good behavior is not what moves me. It’s not my longterm goals for their lives. 

I want to hear about curiosity and causing a ruckus because standardized testing and boring lectures don’t cultivate lifelong learners. Will never make world changers and difference makers. I want my boys to ask hard questions, seek new answers, stumble, fail, and learn some more. 

I wanted to hear more. 

I don’t blame their teachers for my angst. They are working with a hundred year old system and requirements of the state. Modern education a product of trying to produce compliant and behavior-driven people working in dark and dingy factories for little money and too many hours. They needed students to learn how to shut up, look straight, not ask questions, and do their job, so the company could prosper. 

Our lack of creativity and curiosity in the classroom because we are still creating compliant factory workers. People who sit down, say yes ma’am, and never ask questions.

I don’t blame my children for lack of creativity and curiosity because they are working within the same system that gives little room for expression. 

I blame myself. I’m to be the Prime-Curiosity-Curator of the home. It’s my job to not fall into the trap of modern education and allow it to end with lectures, good behavior, and little room for creativity. I need to be curious of the world and let it spill over to my children. We need to go outside and examine the leaves, kick a ball, and build stuff with our hands. Build websites, experiment with robots, and take care of animals. We need to play with the stuff God has made. 

The problem is… I’m a product of the same system. My curiosity was sapped during elementary school when standardized testing pushed aside making art. When lectures pushed out free-play and figuring out things on my own. When writing stories replaced with memorizing useless facts. 

I’m in my 30’s (close to 40) and not allowed to be creative anymore. Not allowed to make art. That’s not what responsible adults do. We work, pay bills, behave, and keep our mouths shut. Curiosity is irresponsible. I’m a product of the system. 

So what is school for?

In a Ted Talk Seth Godin explores the same question. He is on a quest to see modern education transformed back to what it always should’ve of been. An incubator of curiosity for lifelong learners. So we don’t make the mistake of creating kids who stop dreaming, creating, and settle for obedience and memorizing facts. Rather than make a dent for good in the world. 

Godin gives a couple ideas that will change how we do education:

1. Homework during the day… lectures at night. Were have access to teachers during the day to ask questions and work. In the evening, we have access to the best lectures on any subject around the world with a little thing called the Internet. 

2. Open book and open notes all the time. People can look up anything they want anytime (Internet). No need to memorize (see #1).

3. Access to any course anytime and anywhere.

4. Precise focused education… instead of mass batched stuff. 

5. No multiple choice exams. Pointless. 

6. Measuring experience instead of test scores. Experiences are real world useful. 

7. End of compliance as an outcome.

8. Cooperation instead of isolation. 

9. Teachers role transforms into coach.

10. Lifelong learning and work happening earlier on in life. 

11. Death of the famous college (Harvard, etc.).

Godin closes with two myths:

Myth #1: Great performance in school leads to happiness and success.

Myth #2: Great parents have kids who produce well in school. 

No correlation between happiness and good parenting in school performance.

It might be time to reconsider how we educate and think about the role of modern education. We need to ask a simple question before we can move ahead:

What is school for?