Carl, Graduate Student, CA
"I think the human element of schooling is so essential to what schooling is, and it's so often overlooked by policymakers and educators."
Imagine a child you care about deeply is now in their 30s – out of school and starting into adult life. What do you hope for them about their life? What would make it a ‘good’ life?
"Well I'm thinking about my little brother, he's in 7th grade right now. I would want him to be prepared for dealing with adulthood, and really being able to face the challenges of what it means to be an adult. I don’t want him to feel like he's adrift in a system that he doesn't understand, but that he instead has some kind of purpose, some kind of direction, and that he’s equipped to move in that direction, to give his life meaning - whatever that means to him - but to somehow find meaning in living.
I would want him to be able to come up against big challenges, because life is full of challenges, and be able to use the resources around him to overcome those challenges."
What role do you think schooling should play in achieving that ideal good life?
"The first thing that comes to mind is mindset. Schools should encourage students to get a kind of growth mindset, and a mindset that allows them to overcome challenges. I think personally, my experience with schooling is - they taught me to have fixed mindset about a lot of things about myself and it has taken an enormous amount of effort to try and undo that. Mindset is big.
Another thing is allowing students to find a sense of purpose. I think it would be really great if through schooling kids could find the things that really motivated and drove them so that when they exit schooling they have some kind of direction.
Schooling should be a place where kids can learn how to grow themselves, where they're nurtured in a way where they understand how to critically reflect on their own development, and be able to conduct it without any type of scaffolding."
Do you think schools are currently playing the role they should?
"No. I think that what I'm talking about comes out mostly through teacher-student interactions, especially one on one. I think that human element of schooling is so essential to what schooling is, and it's so often overlooked by policymakers and educators. The trend right now, especially with the standards movement and the Common Core or NCLB, even the replacement for NCLB, is to turn the classroom into a sort of process, a business process, where you have inputs and you have outputs, and inputs go through a mechanism and then become outputs, and that's not really what education is about."
What is the purpose of education?
"I think education is about your relationship with yourself and your relationship with the other people who allow you to tap into different parts of yourself. That's where this kind of growth comes out of, it comes out of meaningful teacher interactions more than anything else, or students being able to critically self reflect. I think the direction it needs to go is really allowing us to see what we can be, and to be able to grow even after we've gotten out of education, to be able to grow on our own."