I'm currently reading a book by Maya Frost titled The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition and Get a Truly International Education. In it, she describes the nature of the adolescent mind, how in our teen years our brains open to growth potential that is left largely ignored by the current education system in the United States.The following paragraph resonated particularly strongly with me on many levels.
Our kid's brains are ravenous for content that will lend itself to analysis, and yet we're sticking them into a world that is so limited they are reduced to examining hairstyles and hook-ups instead of more challenging fare. Instead of analyzing culture, politics or world affairs on a daily basis, they're prognosticating about prom dates. They zero in on the fit of their jeans rather than on the fit of a cultural identity within a larger population,and they devote hours to enhancing the clarity of their skin instead of the clarity of their thinking. They are digging into a plate of pettiness because that is precisely what we've served them. They deserve -- and are ready for -- so much more.
It struck me when I read this that the image of the typical obnoxious teen who lives only to text her friends and meet at the mall is something we take for granted. We assume it is the case, because that is what we see around us. In fact, it is entirely possible we amplify that image because we expect it.
But it is not a given.
Following on that little piece of food for thought, I want to share with you a recent TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson about education. In it he calls for the complete revolution of our international education system, now based on a "fast food module." By that, he refers to the standardization and structuring of most systems of education that overlook the needs of the individual.
It starts with the pressure we feel as parents to make sure our children place well into pre-school and goes from there.
That pressure is one of the reasons I wanted to leave New York City. I couldn't see putting LIla through interviews, essays and evaluation play dates, all for the pleasure of paying $20K for a 2-year-old to go to school. It is too painful.
We take for granted that our model is one we must adhere to because it is what we know, and while that model has served us well in many aspects, we must still continue to evaluate and re-evaluate. It's on us as parents, educators and students to identify that which is no longer working and prune the excess.
The pain we experience while pushing our toddlers into pre-school and again when encouraging them to take AP courses and to ace the SAT is a sign something isn't quite right. Embracing a new system is never easy, though. It is another form of letting go.
Photo by HVX Silverstar