In his TedxPhilly lecture, Education is Broken, Chris Lehmann asserts what most of us know all too well: that, “high school stinks!” I think his assertion can be extended to encompass the feelings of many students that, school stinks. Chris suggests these feelings are harbored because students are constantly, day in and day out, told what to do over and over and over again. Even worse, when students are in school we bombard them with tests to collect data, and then use that data to hone in, focus on, and make a fuss about teaching them what they are ‘bad’ at, while letting teaching to elicit students’ “joy, passion, and interest” fall by the wayside. Two things in particular that Chris talked about really resonated with me, which was that school should be a place that teaches students how to learn, and that the job of an educator is to inspire students to “do stuff that matters.” These common threads within the teacher community have helped me develop and understand my philosophy of teaching and shape my interactions with students in the classroom.
In the past, and continuing to present, schools are designed based on the factory model; students are something to be manufactured and the goal is to yield a product- “the 21st Century worker.” However, I echo Chris’ sentiment that students should experience school as more than an assembly line to some distant future; school should teach students how to learn. In my 4 C’s blog post, I highlight the importance of collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking, which are skills that allow students to see and interpret their classes through different lenses.
Chris says, “We can’t let kids think that the answers to everything they need to know is within the four walls of the classroom.”
This statement really spoke to me and drove home the message that “the purpose of school is to learn how to learn.” No longer is it a teacher’s job to tell students the information they need to know; in an ever changing and evolving digital world, information is no longer a scarce resource for students. Instead, it is a teacher’s job to guide students as they wade through the information overload at their fingertips, by teaching them how to effectively use the plethora of information available. When we teach students to learn how to be citizens, we allow them to “realize themselves,” and hopefully fell as if they are someone who matters.
Another part of Chris’ lecture that spoke to me was his suggestion that we interact with students in a way so that what they are doing matters now. They are not working with arbitrary concepts that they are told they might need someday, in the future; we “honor the lives kids lead” today, in real time, in school. The reality of education is, as Chris points out, “Kids [students] are making things that we [teachers] could not even think of.” How cool is it to be teaching in a classroom where students are authentic agents, interacting with their surroundings and working to understand real-world issues. Ultimately, our job as teachers is to inspire our students to see school as something that matters, and then share the “stuff that matters” with the world.
Although the sound quality of this particular video is a bit shoddy, the message still rings clear: education is broken, however; we have the ability to teach and inspire our students to fix it. With his funny, sarcastic, and energetic personality, Chris speaks to the truth of the broken and disconnected education system we face as teachers. Sometimes in education it can feel like every topic is taboo, but the narrative cannot change if we remain silent. Chris and other like-minded educators, including myself, have an obligation to stand up, speak out, and show our students that education does not have to be broken– if we allow our student-citizens to discover the tools to fix it.
TedxPhilly Education is Broken