We Don't Want Kids To Go To School

"Cassiopeia A in Many Colors" from the Smithsonian Institution.

"Cassiopeia A in Many Colors" from the Smithsonian Institution.

By Margaret Roth

There are a few questions running through my mind now, having finally spiraled back from a very thought-provoking and mentally exhausting week in Austin at SXSWedu.

Why do we want kids to go to school?

We want kids to go to school so that they can “develop life skills.” Can become informed “contributors to society.” Can build a context for their interests and become “college and career ready.” So that they can “lead productive lives.”

These all sound like pretty great answers, especially if you have attended classes at any college of ed over the last decade.

But then why do we want to be teachers?

We want to be teachers to “help students find their voice.” To “convince students to become inspired by the world.” To be “a positive influence on the lives of others.” To “help young people find their own success.” To teach kids “to become independent thinkers.”

What all those reasons why we teach come down to is that we want to help kids learn to challenge, build dreams, find their own realities, and then set out on creating their own stories.

When aspects of such an immediately causal relationship - the relationship between students attending schools, and teachers teaching students in schools - lie in such vehement opposition the dissonance cannot be ignored.

We don’t want kids to go to school at all. We want them to learn to become people.

And we want to enable them to do this through their experiences, regardless of where they happen.

When we can facilitate those experiences and share in the flicker of “I can do this,” the forward step of “I can lead this,” and the fundamental shift found at the realization of “I want this for myself,” we know that we have empowered them to become people.

It’s the glow.

It’s knowing that they have changed. That they are shining out through the darkness, to make the world a different place.

And for the glow that is so personal in its instance for us as teachers, so personal that it drives us forward and beyond our own self-assured capacities over and over again, we allow ourselves to continue to exist in a system that invalidates the personal for our students.


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