School Is Not a Metaphor for Life

School should not simply be a metaphor for life. Our students in our schools today deserve a learning experience that values the contribution they can make to the world around them now.

I have always subscribed to this model or definition of the role of school in our society. It may not be a new one, but it is not something you would call commonplace. More frequently experiences in school are metaphors for the “real” experience a student might have. We present to our peers as opposed to the audience who needs to hear our ideas. We encourage creative ideas but never network those ideas out of the room. This needs to change.

School should not simply be a metaphor for life.

I am grateful to David Hawley who recently put some words around a similar sentiment.

If we were to do something that really mattered to ourselves, our classrooms, our schools, and our community, the potential for impact would be at once local and global. Start finding ways to engage students in understanding real-world problems, and then support them in solving those problems. Every student should experience the joy that comes with being a unique and positive force in the world.

Again the idea of a new education standard comes to mind, a truthful realistic opportunity, not just brochure-ware or tokenistic gestures of student-centredness. After all,

Humanity cannot wait for students to graduate.

It is always encouraging isn’t it when you discover your own thinking articulated in someone else’s words. David Hawley references a crucial new definition of what a learning portfolio could be, something in line with parameters referencing: experience, change, influence, creative contribution and social impact.

We need to give students in every school, at every age, real agency and authentic opportunities to make a difference in this volatile, unpredictable, complex, and ambiguous world. With this in mind, we cannot be satisfied only with students learning about the world and developing deep conceptual understanding of multiple disciplines. We need young people building an ever-expanding portfolio of skills and experiences of things that they have done, created, and contributed to – things that matter to them, to others, and to the world we share.

These concepts excite me the most about the future of learning and the re-definition of “school”. I am not sure we can wait much longer. Even Dewey knew this to be true:

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.

1 Comment

  1. Fully agree but waiting for the systems to change is like waiting for rain in the desert. Better to find ways of enabling learners to manage their own learning, as is quoted “real agency”. This has been my single aim for 5 years now. Where am I? Well I have a narrative, a way of exploring learning needs that builds self efficacy and develops real agency, and it is called “Learning Intelligence”. Link to the first article is: http://wp.me/p2LphS-3p PLease, I encourage you all to explore the many articles on LQ and challenge me where you see limitations.

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