Everyone’s capacity to learn is different. But, so also are the skills and curiosity within the learner. How does the institution of education, at all levels, take advantage of the strengths individuals bring to the hallways?
In this environment of defining those around us through labels, society has tried to simplify: it’s much more complex than that in reality.
You probably have heard the youth in our neighbourhood described as, ‘He’s a good kid”, or “that one is a trouble-maker”, or “she will be a star someday”, or “I don’t trust that one”. It is easy to be judgmental, especially if we don’t have any inclination to take the time to get to know them, I mean REALLY get to know them.
What motivates someone, or even more important, what inhibits them? The negative circumstances a child encounters, aren’t always known in schools: they haven’t had a solid meal in weeks; the family situation is dark and abusive; diagnosed and undiagnosed medical conditions override behaviors. On the other hand, the ‘way-to-go-buddy’ syndrome is an attempt to boost their self-esteem sometimes to the detriment such that the child may feel, they and all their peers are equal and the institutional system they enter continues that process to a degree.
If you don’t know who the child is, inside, or what they are capable of eventually in society, you risk partitioning them into categories and destroying the future Picasso, Einstein or Tesla’s inventor, Elon Musk.
‘Sinkers’ are the ones that other’s have defined as not fitting in, or incapable of passing the educational benchmark that a political decision uses for measurement. (note: the irony here is that the system passes these kids, using a streaming process for different levels of education…rather than invest in them… and perhaps to avoid poor stats…?)
‘Swimmers’ are seen as the ones that can get by pretty well on their own without much guidance and therefore neglected for the sake of expediency.
‘Waterwalkers’ are the elite, in sports, math, music or public speaking as examples. Accordingly, they have awards, certificates, ribbons, are the valedictorians, and heralded as the alumni. They get lots of attention, and deservedly so. They also get heightened opportunity often to the loss of another quiet one who will eventually become the entrepreneur or CEO or caregiver that contributes to mankind far beyond the quarterback of the football team.
The labels are there, even if we don’t say them out loud.
If the public educational system is truly based on the individual needs of our children then it is failing. It can’t afford the unknown cost to truly recognize societal benefits through kids with autism or any other legitimate diagnosis, socio-economically deprived individuals or victims of emotional or psychological abuse.
We must all become advocates for a more comprehensive public education opportunity that recognizes labels, by themselves, are not helpful, whereas investment in our children’s humanity is.
From the first day of Senior Kindergarten to their first step in the real world, we must identify an alternative that meets everyone’s needs… differently.