Sunday, November 13, 2011

Education/Parenting - preparation for the real world

One of the concerns that parents and educators have with a ' working with ' approach which supports kids  autonomy is that in the real world you have to learn to take the consequences of your actions, be accountable and adaptive to the demands of the society. The home and school should be preparing kids for the real competitive, unsafe and not empathic world , by giving them coping skills, and not trying to see the world through the eyes of their kids but focusing on compliance so that they will be able to comply with the demands of a future boss. Etc

Schools thus justify competition, -the world outside is a competitive one-, give grades, awards, honor rolls, rank students, standardized testing, and  rewards, punishments, consequences  to get compliance.  The home should have clear rules and when rules are broken and infractions committed, there should be immediate consequences that fit the crime.  Privileges and love should be earned. There is a reciprocity, you need to give in order to get. In this way we are preparing kids for the real world.

John Dewey said that education is not a preparation for life , but life itself. Becoming a LLL – a life long learner with a growth mindset promises one a different quality of life. So we should focus on what it means to be well-educated.

Which kids are more well equipped to cope with the outside world -  those who know how to be compliant and follow instructions or those whose needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness are being met and they have good communication and collaborative problem skills.

 The world today is less 'control and compliance ' orientated than it was in the past. But even if kids end up in a controlling environment, it is those with collaborative problem solving skills who will cope better than a person who is just compliant. Competitiveness is no longer considered an asset in the business world. It is those people who can 'work with' and collaborate with others , learning and gaining from others while making a contribution, end up achieving the most in business.  It is those people who support the autonomy, competence and relatedness of others who are able to lead and inspire.

Traditional schools don't foster collaboration and cooperation skills. As Alfie Kohn says they teach kids to stand alone in a crowd, instead of learning how to work with and benefit from others. 
Docility, compliance , following instructions is valued.

 Responsibility is taught by allowing kids to make decisions , not by following instructions. Traditional schools ignore the whole child and instead of integrating learning into a multi-disciplinary framework , everything is compartmentalized into separate subjects.

 In real life we spend very little time with people of our own ages , progressive schools encourage interactions with kids of different ages. Progressive schools learn not only through discussion but also by doing and constructing modern knowledge. Students take responsibility for their learning and are intrinsically motivated rather than driven by grades and credentials. In their personal interactions and certainly in the work place they will be business leaders and managers who support the autonomy, competence and relatedness of their employees.

In any case the work, home and school environments are different and serve a different purpose. The home should be a safe haven of unconditional love and acceptance and relationships should not be ' contractual or reciprocal ' like those in a work environment. The learning environment focuses on the process , the work environment focuses on results and achievement.

If we see school and the home as place where kids are being prepared for their economic role , educational policies that put emphasis on test scores and a narrow curriculum, those espoused by politicians and business people ,will be the order of the day.  The truth is that education that promotes autonomy, competence and relatedness will not only foster LLLs, life long learners and responsible and caring people, but also creative and cooperative people in the work environment.


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