Lately I’ve been wrestling with some seemingly incongruous ideas. On one side of the dichotomy rest the notion that there is a core of learning that we must ensure all students attain and, related, the idea that every student must leave the PK-12 system college and career ready.
On the other side of this dichotomy is the intersection of a competency based education and personalized learning. I have also struggled to appropriately place the belief that we have to create a sense of hope and passion in each and every one of our students.
I’ve spent countless hours lately stewing about how we square these seemingly opposing ideas. Here’s what I’ve come up with. The central idea is constant renegotiation toward the ultimate goal of finding (and constantly reengineering) one’s place in the world. Learning and living are not linear. From the moment we’re born until the moment we die we are navigating inputs –often in the form of content, interactions, and experiences. These experiences and interactions drive our hopes and passions. Our hopes and passions shape our place in the world.
We pass through phases; there’s an ebb and flow. For a period of time the public education system has a role in this process. Children arrive in our system with these cycles already in motion. While they’re with us, we insert content, experiences, and interactions into this cycle.
The what and how of that impact a child’s hopes and passions – and shape his or her sense of place in the world. I reject the notion that our goal as a public education system is to ensure students are college and career ready. I reject the notion that our goal as a public education system is to ensure a standardized core of knowledge and skills for all students. I accept that these are outcomes of quality system, but they are not the goal.
I propose that our goal as a system of public education is to help each learner find and have the capacity to create and re-create a positive and productive place in our world. It seems to me that a quality system would be one in which learners are constantly renegotiating content and experiences as they pass through a core set of concepts and skills that prepare them for further learning, work, and life. Truly, there are infinite pathways into and out of this core learning if we accept them. By engaging in this process on an individual student level, we contribute to the constant renegotiation of passion and hope that help children define (and redefine) their place in our world.