School change: should kids adapt to school, or school adapt to kids?

by Steve Wyckoff on June 28, 2010

During a conversation about school change an individual made the comment that we’d be fine if, “The kids would just bear down and be responsible like they used to be!” Interesting thought. This individual went on to say that students from foreign countries, especially emerging countries, come to America and kick our kids butts in school.

As you might guess, I have a different point of view on this. I think that if our kids got their drinking water from a hole next to their house they would be equally motivated to do what ever it takes to change their station in life. Fortunately this isn’t the case.

In an affluent society such as ours we are never going to return to the student behaviors of the past. It’s incumbent upon us as educators to create a system that meets the needs of society in such a way that it also engages our students as they’ve never been engaged before.

The other day while speaking at the University of Kansas to a group of teachers in the process of obtaining their certification to become building level administrators, I was asked if there has ever been a time in our history that our students were authentically engaged on a regular basis. The answer obviously, is no. But it didn’t matter. Our students were being prepared for a completely different society than we have today.

In fact, that’s part of our problem. We are still preparing students for a world of factories and mass production. A world where the most important skill was compliance. If you want to succeed in today’s schools, be very compliant, and act like you care. Guaranteed success.

Unfortunately, graduating from that system doesn’t guarantee success in life. In fact being compliant is the path to a job that has, low pay, high potential for being outsourced, or automated using technology.

The school change we need to make needs to be a thoughtful transformation to schools that prepare kids for their future in the 21st century. For us to attempt to make our kids adapt to our schools is utter nonsense! – Steve Wyckoff

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