In his excellent op-ed in the Washington Post, Princeton professor, Kwame Anthony Appiah, imagines what future generations will condemn us for, as we have condemned our ancestors for slavery and women’s disenfranchisement. Appiah mentions our prison systems, factory farming, and the isolation and institutionalization of our elderly.
I think our descendants will also condemn us for how we chose to educate children and teens in our school systems. I believe that future generations will decry the rote memorization approaches (practiced long after facts were readily available on hand-held computers) and which failed to address a changing world in need of innovative approaches to solving systemic problems. They will wonder why it took so long to transform schooling so that it was relevant to a changed and changing world and marvel that we suppressed our children’s creativity when it was so crucial to cultivate it. They will wonder how we made “competing in a global economy” our educational goal rather than educating a generation of solutionaries who could create systems that were humane, sustainable and just, and how we justified making children sit in chairs all day while we poured often outdated knowledge into their minds and tested them repeatedly in multiple choice formats rather than engaging their minds, hands, and hearts toward learning that helped them become engaged citizens and changemakers through whatever careers they pursued.
There are so many arenas that future generations will criticize, but perhaps none is more likely to produce such a critical-thinking generation as quickly as addressing schooling, so that all the other systems that are inhumane, unjust, and unhealthy can be readily transformed. Let’s address schooling now and there will be much less to condemn us for later.
Zoe Weil, President of the Institute for Humane Education and author of Most Good, Least Harm and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
Image courtesy of sbug via Creative Commons.