Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Remember always that you have not only the right to be an individual; you have an obligation to be one. You cannot make any useful contribution in life unless you do this." - Eleanor Roosevelt

This quote, so well-known, is maybe a litmus test for us when we hear the political and policy debates about education. Education is often touted as necessary for our strength and "competitiveness" for nations, but is education driven by large-scale standardized testing and compliance/conformance models really strength-building? Perhaps that's the language used to sell us political programs that have large financial benefits for the companies that provide the tests, but is it what we really believe will strengthen our children and their capacity to contribute to their family, their culture, their society, and ultimately, their (and our) world?

There are those who believe that for students learning to work together is more important than building their individual strength and capability. This shouldn't be an either/or discussion, but it is through helping a child develop individual capacity, and confidence to use that capacity in relationship to others, that would produce real community. 

I might also suggest that there is a commercialized version of individualism--where we believe that we are expressing our individuality by virtue of what products or brands we consume or display--that masks the true individuality that comes from finding ways to grow our talents and skills. Sadly, I know a lot of youth who leave high school convinced they are good at expressing their individuality, but believe they are not good learners, or don't have something they are really good at (perhaps the majority?). That they need to continue to consume commercially to maintain that sense of individuality might give us a likely motive for the perpetuation of our existing education narratives.

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