Eric, Philanthropic Program Officer, CO
Eric is a Philanthropic Program Officer and lives in Colorado. He was interviewed by his girlfriend, Devanie.
Tell me about a child you care about and what makes them unique and special.
My next door neighbor Lily. She’s brilliant, I met her when she was four so before she ever entered any education and she was already reading and just super quick-witted and very pensive about the world. She has an imagination that doesn’t believe anything is impossible, and a desire for everyone to understand the world the way she does. I don’t think the word “can’t” is in her vocabulary.
Tell me what you would want for Lily when she’s in her 30’s.
When she was four, she told me she just wants a man who’s into her so she can marry him and have a good life.
Haha, but for real- I would love to see her be able to pursue whatever she wants. Now that she’s five she says she loves school, so I would want for her to pursue as much or little school as she wants. And if school is her path to success I hope she has the options and freedom to decide where she wants to pursue that passion and if school is not the path that’s best for her I hope the stigmas around not attending college are lessened. I hope there is less pressure for her to pursue higher education if that’s not the path that feels right to her. But then it is challenging because as an 18 year old, does anyone know what is right for them?
What role should school play in getting her there?
I think baseline, a safe and secure place for her to be able to pursue what interests her, and support if that is not necessarily the traditional way she learns. And I want her to have teachers that have the room and space to be the role models that I had as teachers. For them to have time and energy for them to devote to Lily and her classmates.
What did that look like for you?
Teachers who are hard on students when they are lazy, I was a lazy student. But then, teachers who made an effort to connect with students and develop relationships with students that feel more peer like because I think there is more trust within those relationships. And when you have those relationships, you wanted to put your effort into the work, because it was about the relationship.
Are schools playing the role they should?
For many students, I think yes. This system has been going on so long that a lot of students adapt to how it’s supposed to be. Go to school 7-3, sit in class, do homework and take a test. For some it is definitely not set up for success. My cousin, school itself didn’t interest him, in the areas he was interested he was motivated and wanted to learn more but there weren’t enough opportunities for him to do so?
What areas were those?
He was big into lyricism and poetry and creative writing.
Will schools play the role it should for all children?
Not for all children, no. For some students traditional learning is not the best way. Many students just get by because that is how they have to do it whereas if there is a way to change the system to be more supportive for students who aren’t quite as engaged in traditional learning process, it might be better. I don’t know what that looks like though. I just don’t think any two students learn the same way, even identical twins. As an identical twin, Chris was always much better in numerical subjects and I actually was better in science and he was just a way better test taker. He was the first one done and he was the top of the class, and I would not be. Chris got better grades than me and typically in classes that had more tests he did a lot better. The grading system made it so that there is a very explicit comparison point between my brother and I.
What do you think is the purpose of schooling for individuals and society, broadly?
Very basically it is to teach kids about how the world works because in order to provide for families, parents can’t spend their days (some parents) with their kids teaching them everything. It’s a place for kids to explore and figure out what works for them and what they want to do with their lives.
Do you think people agree with you?
I think generally so. I think it’s a generational issue for one. I think the older generation because you go to school and you do what you have to do and you find a job and start a family, that traditional path of life applies to the school system and I think generally with age change becomes much harder. So the newer generation is more open to the idea of changing traditional schooling, but almost encourages it and wants to make the system better for kids who come after us. It might be because we have more people who struggled in the traditional system and realized that if there was another way to do it, I could have been more successful in the traditional sense. The older generation probably doesn’t truly disagree with me, but maybe changing the system just sounds hard.
What are some empowering educational experience you’ve had?
I would say, for one, when I was a freshman in high school I tried cheating on a homework assignment by using my brother’s homework as my own and got caught immediately. I panicked and it was a huge slap in the face about needing to put in the work to be successful. It reminded me that I had to work hard and learn hard if I wanted to be successful. While I was not a good standardized test taker and accepting that despite that I’m still smart and knowledgeable about things, I’m just not good at choosing between four choices when a few of them look the same and I can’t explain what I’m thinking.