Tensions were high. Voices were being raised. Hopes for a better future were being shared. A mix of anticipation, frustration, wonder and questioning swirled around the room.
I watched and listened as the small group of committed yet disgruntled educators ranted their rants and shared their qualms with current systems. I wondered why I was at the table with such a remarkable group of people.
It seems that Leap Year Project and now, Experience Institute, get looped into anti-college conversations – as my own way of brushing current systems aside and claiming “I have a better way” to education.
But, that’s not me.
It’s faddish and overly simplistic to put down current systems and tout a new way that will change everything. That style has been around since the beginning of playgrounds and politics. It’s a message that may have its place in moving people to action– especially within education; but it can be an unsurprising and unhelpful voice in an industry with a lot of noise.
It is far more generative to focus on the needs of real people and uncover methods that are merely overlooked, underrepresented and have potential to be remarkably powerful.
Because education isn’t about education, it’s about people – learning about the world, themselves, and how they’ll make their mark here. We’d be amiss to shrink it to programs and technologies. Yes, it needs to be organized, but if we try too hard to formalize it, it becomes nothing more than a mask for our desire for control – or our fear of losing control.
I truly wonder how we might elevate the role of experience within learning. I get excited about someone designing their education in the same manner as someone designing their own furniture, home, or anything else that requires creative, intentional thought. I’m curious what will happen as content becomes less of a focus due to its newfound ubiquitousness. Could the core of learning become even more rooted in community? Could cities be seen as classrooms? Could resumes be replaced by compelling, well-told story? Will the role of professor shift to a mix between practitioner and mentor?
These curiosities continue to fuel me as I prepare for some of the biggest risks of my short career. They’re a reminder of why I’m willing to take those risks.
Wherever you are, you too should raise your head, voice, and hands for what you believe. Find the people who are saying similar things. Let your frustrations lead you to listen and let your learnings move you to build rather than demolish.
The future will be much brighter with new roads and remodeled buildings, rather than picketed sidewalks and echoes of angry voices.