For one of my courses, students were asked to bring a quick summary of their philosophies of education. Here is (a slightly modified version of) what I wrote.
I have lots of opinions about education. I think most emerge from what is written below. This is a work in progress and I’d love be to able to tighten or focus this, as well as explore any aspects of my thinking about education that aren’t captured here. Please share your thoughts!
“Your curiosity is valid. Your frustration is valid.”
Education is what has happened when you can see the world more clearly and/or connect more deeply with a person, idea, or work of natural or human-created beauty. “You” can be an individual (of any age), or a collection of individuals, or an institution of any kind. Education usually happens informally (often entirely by chance) and can sometimes happen by design.
Education is most likely to be deep and lasting (and occur at all) when you, your peers, your authority figures, and the institutions you are attached to agree with the following two statements both explicitly, in frequently reinforced words and actions, and implicitly, in structures and values:
1: Your curiosity is valid.
When it is perfectly obvious to you that you are capable of, permitted to, and encouraged to pursue the little or big things that intrigue you, you learn. When you are surrounded by (and coached by, and coach of) lots of other people who are empowered to pursue their curiosity, these people model deep engagement for you AND you learn about and can build off of all of things they are curious about.
2: Your frustration is valid.
It is normal to be frustrated by a wide variety of you-specific and general things, big and small. When you know that this is normal and that, in fact, you may even have frustrations in common with those around you, it is possible to stay engaged with those frustrations to explore ways to productively address and work through those frustrations, and maybe even innovate a new solution to alleviate the frustrations of lots of other people!
I was a classroom teacher for eight years and we were forced to push the traditional college college route, what you said about curiosity being valid reminds me of how many students would have went on to receive some type of vocational training if they had been allowed to peruse their curiosities and know about alternatives to the traditional college route.
Yup. ….and having the opportunity to pursue some of those curiosities before college, ironically, may have made them more likely to be accepted to college (if that is a path they would choose).
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