It’s incredible to me how much time we waste trying to fit ourselves into the narrow perceptions of the systems around us. I have spent the majority of my life in the education system; as a student, teacher, learner, and leader. This time has taught me that the systems that we use, as well intentioned as they may be, inevitably lead to inequity.
Take the curriculum, for example. Government written, its was originally designed to make sure that students were on ‘the same page’ as they progress through the system. The intent was good but it quickly results became distorted as new governments took control, demands for rewrites based on politics rather than good research, and new content continuing to be published in formats that are irredeemably archaic.
Here we are in the 21st Century, the beck and call of human technology at our fingertips, and we are stuck waiting for curriculum updates because of the cost of paper? Why do we need paper? Why do they need to be printed at all? Why isn’t the update process ongoing and collaborative, based on research rather than political will, practice rather than theory?
This is just a small example, but it pervades throughout the system in everything that we do in education. The curriculum leads us to pathways, but we narrow those to only three options: workplace, college or university, completely ignoring apprenticeships or the ability to move between the pre-written pathways beyond our time in formal education. We inadvertently teach our students that they have one of three paths to follow, when their reality is in fact boundless.
The curriculum also narrows us to time-based abilities, as if by a certain age we should have mastered a specific academic goal. Just like everything else in life, these kinds of timelines are not absolute. Even as toddlers, we walk between 8.5 and 20 months. When it becomes necessary to use that skill, we tend to even out. So why do we hold our students down in comparison to their peers and say ‘you must be here.’ Why not use the curriculum instead to build individual plans for students, to focus on their growth, not in comparison to the rest of the class, but in comparison to their own learning, skills, and needs for development?
We deserve better in education, students, teachers, and leaders alike.