Children in 2022 are very different from previous generations. They are much more advanced in their thinking and seek challenges that we never thought to seek. The early immersion in technology has exacerbated their incessant need for information. The sheer abundance of data that is at their fingertips has ignited their ongoing desire for immediacy and instant gratification.
If you scroll through Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, Snapchat and so many other platforms, you will find that videos are only 5 to 10 seconds long. Even as adults, we are scrolling past really long posts or videos that drone on for longer than 30 seconds, unless we are engaged with the content. Our children's inability to focus and their high distractibility is directly due to the same factors. The everchanging landscape of how learning is accomplished has shifted in its roots, yet schools are still teaching to a generation that are accustomed to lengthy lectures and lesson plans, while sitting still and adhering to a rigid set of rules and guidelines. Children in school must arrive at a certain time, eat a certain time, go outside at a certain time, exercise and free movement is built in, at a certain time. None of these activities are a choice. They are herded out and herded in as a group without exemptions or exceptions. Children are punished for challenging assumptions, questioning authority, and initiating new ways of solving old problems. All this conformity is sure to raise a classic generation of followers. Young minds are being molded to perceive reality through the lens of educators. We are trusting young children with their choice in deciding which gender they choose to be but not allowing them to decide what they want to learn or how.
The current traditional systems are all very similar in that they collaboratively coerce students to follow the system. At the age of 16, our children are asked to make the choice of where to attend university and decide on their future careers. How can they effectively make this life-altering decision if they were told what to do, every step of the way until that very moment?
When schools started, they were educating for the purpose of raising a generation of farmers, military workers, and factory employees. Operating intensely within a system of gears and wheels that contribute to the infrastructure of societal norms.
Today, we desire more for our children. We want them to become leaders, artists, inventors, scientists, and engineers. How can we produce leaders in a system rife with conformity? How can you expect children to nurture their inherent curiousity in a system that prohibits individual thought? When a student refuses to create a mosaic of flowers because they choose to shape a clay pot, we fail them in the art unit and note that they did not follow instructions like everyone else. If a student struggles with biology but can unapologetically identify every species of dinosaur and prehistoric creature, we note that they were unsuccessful in the completion of the prefixed unit. Engagement with content is discouraged except within the allowable discourse of preplanned lessons and class discussions.
Every industry in our world has evolved; sciences, technology, arts - each one promoted, researched, funded, and encouraged by global efforts to advance and design new ways and methodologies. Every industry, except education.
Is this not a concern? Our future generations... our greatest assets... our most important investments are still stuck in an archaic, antiquated system of schedules, rules, tests, and dated curricula.
Parents are more educated now than ever before. We are aware of the issues existing in the school systems; in fact, we are a product of them. How many times did you ask yourself...if they only let me explore my talent more in school then I would have arrived on what my passion and purpose is much sooner without wasting so much time?
I was fortunate to know from a young age that I wanted to be a teacher. Like many other girls my age, at the time, I looked forward to teaching young children and instructing them. Working with children was always a passion of mine and then, I started high-school. I saw so many displaced peers and so much exclusion for friends with special needs. I would cry with a friend who suffered from cerebral palsy because he was bullied and parked by teachers in the corner until a porter can come take him to his next class. We were taught a sense of "self" versus "others" at an early age and it was insidious and damaging to so many colleagues of mine. This was just the beginning.
In college and university, I was faced with racism, sexism, creed discrimination and outright prejudice for the fact that I was an Arab. I experienced so much anger and hate throughout my post-secondary years and I couldn't grapple with the intentional need to consistently try and prove myself. I felt like my voice was lost in academia as I screamed "Mercy!" into a black, endless void.
This blog post isn't about me. It is about your child. The one in school right now.
If you ever felt a nagging feeling that the teacher is treating them unfairly or that the system is teaching them principles that do not align with yours, trust your gut. Step up and be your child's advocate. If you child is struggling in school because they decided to do things differently or they learn differently, stand up for them and challenge the educational premise of conformity. There is a need to evolve as a society in how we view schooling. To be clear, learning and schooling are NOT the same thing.
Your child might hate learning and feel that they are incapable of grasping new concepts but be sure that the underlying issues they are having is with schooling not learning.
It is time to recognize what we have known for a few decades... schools need to pivot and evolve like all the other industries to effectively meet the needs of our new generation of thinkers, leaders, and inventors. Schools need to implement more experiential learning and life-skill development and less archaic philosophies that are no longer relevant to our current reality. The system needs to support and integrate students of all abilities in all activities and classroom environments without segregation and labelling. We need to celebrate the strengths of every student and help them explore their purpose.
Enough schooling, more learning. This has got to be the way forward.