Are we cheating them?

The national dialogue on education continues to struggle between two things: what adults are comfortable with and what students deserve.

At the end of the day it’s about the kids.

And the big question we need to ask ourselves is this: are we cheating them?

My grandmothers saved everything. I have poems my dad wrote in a Kindergarten, pictures my mom drew in second grade, textbooks they used in high school, and even a few report cards. I even have a original western world history text from my great grandmother.

When I look at all of that educational memorabilia for the most part I think that their educational experiences did the job. My grandmothers learned to read and write. They learned to cook and sew. My parents learned a bit more with typewriters coming into play, and things like biology being first offered in schools. They too could read and write and balance checkbooks. But they could also build furniture, change oil, play the piano, and dissect worms and flowers.

I look at my own education; I can’t complain at all. We had mock trials, field trips, global pen-pals, gardens, guest speakers, field days, greenhouses, physics, women’s literature, drama, foreign language, and much much more.

Now that I’m a parent I think a lot about what my kids will be experiencing at school. And I hope (and often pray) that the schools where they will learn will amaze me.

Just like my great grandmothers were amazed that their daughters were allowed to take math. Just like my grandmothers were amazed that their sons were allowed to write poetry and learn to type. Just like my mother was amazed when I came home having coded my first computer program to teach my fellow students sign language.

No one should be amazed when our kids learn to read and write and calculate.

Everyone should be amazed when their child walks in the door able to do something awesome that they never could have imagined.

In a time of great cultural, social, and economic shifting it is easy to think of new approaches and opportunities in education as unnecessary.

We see kids using robots and wonder why they aren’t learning math. Just like my grandparents wondered if learning to type would keep my dad from having legible hand writing.

It’s easy to judge today when we forget about yesterday. It’s easy to think that what we had in school is enough; but if we are wrong we could be faced with dire consequences. If our mothers were never given more opportunity at school than our grandmothers, many wouldn’t be allowed to drive. If we were never given more opportunity than our fathers, many women wouldn’t be allowed to work and thrive in corporate settings.

With my own kids, if they just learn to read and write and calculate; great. But if that is all that is happening during the 1,080 hours that they spend at school each year than I’ll have to ask: are we cheating them?

Why, because like my great grandmothers, my grandmothers, and my own mother learned, if my kids just do what I did they won’t be ready for their world.

They won’t be ready for the tomorrow that they will lead.

If we pull back on the advances in assessment, learning, brain development, digital tools, virtual collaborations and the like we cheat our children out of the world they deserve. A world were they are mastering their tools, developing skills (like digital citizenship) that we never knew would exist, mastering the basics, and having learning experiences that will shape them into leaders and care takers of our next generation… that is a world where education is doing right by today’s kids.

If you are a parent that doesn’t believe, I ask you to do something. Look back and talk to your elders, look at those report cards stuffed in a shoebox in the attic, go visit a college campus, and go to a job fair and listen to what the global marketplace is looking for. Think about all that has changed since you were in the seats your children now fill.

Are you willing to be the voice that cheats them from a learning experience that will prepare them for their future? Or will you trust and feel comfort in being amazed.

Choose to be amazed, your great grandmothers will thank you.