The present situation of Covid-19 affecting school closures in the U.S. provides a generous opportunity for citizens to meticulously examine and clarify what defines and encapsulates K-12 education in this country. After listening to fellow educators of multiple grade levels and departments, plus parents and students, I’d like to pose some broad questions to consider.
My goal here is to light a match so we can more courageously look into the “hidden shadows” outside the limited parameters of what’s been the accepted standard. Let’s take the time to collectively imagine an amended educational system which includes every available possibility that previously eluded our attention. If we first identify the ultimate, agreeable objectives of K-12 education, then we can more easily establish and implement the tactics to achieve those goals year after year.
This is a starting point. I have many more questions. I’ll follow this post with a Part Two to elaborate and offer my own suggestions. Until then, you’re welcome to share your ideas in the comments, and/or take this conversation to your families, town halls, city councils, and superintendents. Systemic change may feel both radical and torturously slow in the moment, and it’s nonetheless a necessary pathway to design together.
For the sake of our young people, I ask you…
– What would it take for this country to indisputably prioritize the funding of schools, teachers’ salaries, classroom materials, and extracurricular activities?
– How do we really want young people to spend their precious, fleeting, impressionable K-12 years? What do we want to cultivate in these future generations? What is essential?
– For what does the established, pre-pandemic mode of education truly prepare young people? Is it solely preparation for the end of earning a diploma? For collegiate acceptance? For their guidance in mental, social, and emotional growth? For moving toward the unique dreams of their minds and hearts?
– What exactly do we want to quantify and qualify as learned lessons for the young person’s development?
– Is quantifiable education exclusively about the memorization and demonstration of an encyclopedic knowledge?
– Could education be a dynamic way for young people to learn how to negotiate their own path within a collaborative world of diverse cultures, perspectives, biases, etc?
– How do we fully honor the young person’s lived experience (including realities such as generational trauma) while providing space for them to build skills in stress management, interpersonal conflict, rage, loss, and navigating change?
– When did policymakers require that people ages 5-18 attend school? Was it once the child labor laws were enacted?
– Why were the (roughly) September-June and Monday-Friday schedules established in the U.S.? Who says that those models of structured time have to continue unaltered?
– Who and what determined the sequential K-12 curriculum as it stands? When was that established, and when was the last time it was examined? Why does that curriculum widely vary state by state?
– Why and when was it decided to assign certain historical, geographical, and language-based subjects (and their abbreviated segments therein) per grade level in K-12 learning?
– How has an attempt at fairness by way of the generality of standardization affected the ability to meet young people where they are with their own inherent strengths and capabilities?
– When did we stop (or why do we avoid) teaching the entire person? How might attention on a student’s emotional development inform the rest of their learning experience?
– What would K-12 education look like if young people were grouped by their learning style rather than age? And what if they were matched with educators who could meet the needs of young people based on their given cultural, emotional, psychological, and additional means of support and understanding?