With the appointment of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education, many parents and others are elated by the prospect of more “school choice”—whether through vouchers or other means. They shouldn’t be. Not because some schools aren’t “better” than others in some senses—some clearly are. And not because it hurts the concept of public education, even though it does.
The reason I say “school choice” is a cruel hoax is because real choice our kids need, at the most profound and necessary level, does not exist in any of our schools. At the level that counts, all schools today, and all education today, is the same—an outdated Academic approach consisting of “core” classes in Math English, Science and Social Studies. (I call this “THE MESS”). It matters not whether your kid, depending on your means and the vouchers you may get, attends a neighborhood public school, a charter, or a fancy private school. They will get the same outdated education, because, currently, that is the only concept accepted of what an education is. But it will be the wrong education for your kids’ future, becuase the world, and your kids, are changing rapidly.
And what is now starting to change with it is the idea of what an education is, and what it means to be educated in the future.
What kids get, at almost any school, is an outdated—even if updated—type of “academic” education, mostly in Math English, Science and Social Studies. (“THE MESS”). While a parent might say “Yes, that’s what I expect, and I want it to be as good as possible,” what all parents (and educators) need to understand is that an “academic” education is not longer sufficient to prepare our kids for the world in which they will live. It is a holdover from the 19th and 20th centuries, when the world was very different (and The MESS actually did matter).
Unfortunately, the kind of education that met the requirements of the past—and produced success for many of today’s adults—is NOT the education that meets the needs of kids in the time in which they will live.
What tomorrow’s kids need — what will both make them better people and will get them jobs—is the ability to ACCOMPLISH. Google already trumpets this on its website when it writes: ”We are looking for people who can get things done.” As Thomas Carlyle said, way back in the 19th century, “Nothing builds self esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.” And accomplishment (i.e. succeeding at a project in the real world) is very different from “academic achievement.”
Kids (and their parents) also need to understand that their personal goal should not be just “learning” or “grades,” or “getting into college.” While that may still be important to parents, both kids and parents need to be constantly reminded that the real goal is to become good, effective, world-improving people. The real reason we educate our kids is so they can figure out (1) what issues and problems in the world they care about, (2) what their personal strength are they they can apply to those issues and problems, and (3) what they love to do, and then figure out how to make that work for them.
So whether we say we offer more “school choice” or less “school choice,” today all kids and parents are really getting the SAME wrong education for the future—just with different marginal variations.
We have to do better. And some, around the world, are starting to, as I will discuss in future posts.