We’ve become completely obsessed with pushing children along a path of learning. Subjects, tests, benchmarks, progress, grades, awards, expectations, pressure…these words have become synonymous with childhood, and the age we start using them is getting younger and younger.
Before a child has a chance to start exploring their uniqueness, who they really are and how they’d like to express that in the world, they’re asked to gather in a group and spend 13 years walking along the same path as everyone else.
They’re told what they’ll be learning, when they’ll be learning, and where they’ll be learning it. They’re told what is expected of them, by what age, and how and when they’ll need to prove they’re meeting the standards. It does not matter if the method of proof doesn’t come naturally to them, or whether they find any of it interesting. It is too bad if the physical space is one they don’t thrive in.
Throughout this learning journey the child will move progressively toward proficiency in what has been asked of them. And they will move progressively away from a desire to explore what makes them unique.
In the end, they will become pretty much who they’ve been asked to become. For many, the spark of individuality that was ready to ignite in childhood will be all but extinguished.
We’ve created a strictly linear system from which it is almost impossible to explore other paths, and this will remain a fact for as long as we focus childhood on achieving a single gold standard.
As we all start thinking about the life we want to get back to when the world’s wheels start turning again, it’s a chance for us to consider a very different starting premise for education approaches globally:
That the true essence of childhood is not learning. It is becoming.