Education is broken. I firmly believe this, and it's going to be hard for me to type this without crying--mostly because when I get this frustrated, I don't know what to do with myself, and, annoyingly, my response is usually tears.
This will be raw--maybe not yet ready for public discourse--but hear me out.
We're killing education. We're making systems of credentials, standards, hoops to jump through and we've forgotten about knowledge. No fucking wonder that people don't care about education. School isn't about learning anymore, it's about the end goal: diploma, higher-paying job, line on a resume. When I asked my students if they felt like they learned anything at school, most of them said no. Not just because they're 7th graders and think they know everything, but because many of their days are a mind-numbing monotony of factory-style bells shuffling them from one place to the next, a repetitive motion of slumping into their desks and waiting out the next bell that tells them to get up and move again. They say no because school has become a slew of tests and discrete "skills" to be mastered--skills that may actually have value but are divorced from any larger context until they are unintelligible, totally removed from life.
Of course, it's not that bleak for everyone. The other teachers I'm teamed with are pretty fucking great. They care about students, not just their curriculum. They want their students to learn, not just pass a district test. They're fighting the good fight. But curriculum and testing are largely taking the place of learning, exploration, joy.
Yes. There are certain skills that everyone should learn. Students do need to be assessed to see if they've learned them--but that's the key: that they've learned them.
Learning is not about being able to plug the right answer into a worksheet. It's not about being able to fix the incorrect sentence scrawled on the board. It's not regurgitating the right date on a test. Learning is a soul-searching process of becoming the person you want to be, discovering what excites you, what makes you passionate, what you can do for this world. Learning is hard work and, ultimately, one of the most rewarding things you can do. But learning is not what we encourage in public schools. We encourage credentialing. And the lesson we all learn from that, the lesson that we're sending to kids from the first time we tell them that they have to go to school to get a good job, is that learning is just a means to an end.
Again: it's no fucking wonder that people don't care about schools. Instead of giving kids the tools to enrich their lives with learning, thought, wonder, we're teaching them that what we mistakenly call "learning"--what we do to them in schools--is just something to endure until they're ready for real life. It's something that stops when they--thank god--graduate. It's a performance for someone who evaluates and judges them, not something that enriches and defines their own lives.
I'm not sure what the answer is. Of course it's something I fight against in my own classroom, but I'm so, so frustrated lately by how small an impact that seems to be. I see kids for an hour every day, for ten months of their lives. How is that ever going to be enough to fight against the overwhelming tide of influence all around them the rest of the day? What do I do to encourage learning--real learning, hard learning, fulfilling, passionate learning? How do I fix this?