Would a new school mission lead to real school change?

by Steve Wyckoff on April 7, 2010

The school mission is a ubiquitous assumption that impedes real school change. Everybody in education will tell you that their mission contains something about preparing every student to be a productive member of society. They may not use those exact words but the meaning is still there. And that’s about the end of schools having a sense of mission.

I think that perhaps a discussion about what our mission should be might actually foster some real school change. Okay, maybe I’m hoping. Educators go about their business assuming that what they are doing actually is preparing students to be productive members of society. I think they are badly mistaken.

I would offer this as a new mission for schools. That every school, “Empower every student to discover what it is they can become remarkable at.” Okay so the grammar sucks, you get the point. We spend most of our time in schools today preparing kids to be test taking clones. Yet I read all the time about remarkable people. Some famous, some not so famous. We admire remarkable people. Remarkable people are happier and lead a more fulfilling life.

Becoming remarkable doesn’t necessarily imply becoming remarkable in a career, although being remarkable in a career is a worthy goal. I think we can help our kids become remarkable in the things they pursue for happiness outside of the workplace or inside the workplace. It may be a lifelong passion that’s a hobby, a “calling”, or an avocation.

I believe that we would be far better off helping kids discover who they are and what they are passionate about then we are in the current system of memorization and test. I further believe that our kids would truly master many more of the “identified standards” than they do now. Focusing on students passions would give context and meaning to their learning. It would make learning relevant for our students.

I think that the discussion around adopting a new school mission would lead to real school change. Now we just assume that what we are doing is meeting our mission. – Steve Wyckoff

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