It’s 2020. Can We Finally Admit Our Education System Is Outdated?

Let’s make a declaration to truly transform it.

Kelly Young
Jan 14 · 4 min read

At the beginning of 2019, along with many friends and allies, we took a stand to do what it takes to make learner-centered education available to all children and young people.

We recognize an outdated system of education still largely persists, one that has not meaningfully changed since the turn of the 20th-century. And, in service of children, families and communities, it is time to transform education from a standardized, one-size-fits-all system to one that enables every child to joyfully learn and grow into an adult living a meaningful and fulfilling life. We have a unique window of time this decade to make this happen.

I’m firm in my belief that we can come together as a nation and agree it is no longer acceptable for our education system to structurally reinforce social inequities — perpetuating opportunity gaps rooted in race, economic status, identity, language, culture, geography, or neurodiversity.

I believe we can together declare that “success” is not represented by a single letter or number but rather by the ability to live a life that lies at the intersection of our passions and talents and what our society needs.

I am confident we will come to the conclusion that the world economy is changing (and has already changed) in ways that require each and every one of us to contribute our unique gifts to our communities. And, that we can no longer be satisfied with a system that aims to sift, sort, and label young people into categories of ability and inability.

In doing so, I believe we will then be compelled to provide our children with the learning experiences they need to become self-directed, creative, collaborative, and adaptable problem solvers.

To realize this vision, let’s prioritize a few resolutions this year:

  • Let’s commit to a future in which every child has access to a learner-centered education, marked by the ways in which they are valued as unique individuals, their agency and passions are cultivated, and their learning is nurtured in caring communities.
  • Let’s shape a future in which every educator, family, and community is supported and empowered to make a difference for young people.
  • And now more than ever, let’s take a stand for every young person having the opportunity to co-create their own education, pursue their interests, and contribute their gifts.

When my peers and colleagues ask what I hope we can achieve at Education Reimagined in 2020, I respond with the commitment to celebrate and elevate the learner-centered environments that are already developing young people who are ready for what the world now demands.

I want to shine a light on the individuals, families, and communities who are beginning to see the reality that our current education system can never be what we need because it was designed to produce standardized results. And, I want to begin to meet their emerging desire for powerful learning experience for their children — experiences that lend credence to, and celebrate, the full diversity of skills, ideas, identities, and passions young people bring to the table.

This fundamental view that the diversity of humankind is our greatest asset serves as the foundation of learner-centered education. Such a mindset recognizes that our role in life should not be to become what others want us to be but, instead, to discover our gifts and spend our lives harnessing those gifts in ways that benefit others.

When we see we can make a difference in an endeavor that matters to us, we become enamored by the challenge of developing the skills and knowledge necessary to make that difference. And, when we are able to produce a meaningful result, our drive for learning grows.

If we can continue forwarding a learner-centered education movement that dynamically shifts the purpose of education — ensuring each child can translate their interests, curiosities, and passions in ways that can make an impact in their communities and beyond — how might many of the intractable issues we see today become relics of the past?

Leaders in the education space, whether our work is local, regional, or national, should center our work on nurturing the strengths and leadership of each child and letting them lead. As we nurture their agency and leadership, ours will grow in tandem. And, as we cultivate this sense of agency and leadership for millions of young people, we will have what we need to face our most enduring challenges and create a world we are proud to live in.

As we enter a new decade, the time to shift to learner-centered education is now. While the movement has made substantial progress in the past year and decade, there is still so much more we can do together.

We must unite and ignite individuals, organizations, and networks that are willing to support this transformational shift from a school-centered system to one that is learner-centered.

Are you willing and able to take this stand for the children in your community? Make your declaration here.


Kelly Young is the President of Education Reimagined — a national non-profit committed to making learner-centered education available to every child in the US, regardless of background or circumstance.

Explore more learner-centered stories and ideas that are shaping the future of education in Voyager.

Ideas and insights accelerating the growth of a learner-centered education movement.

Kelly Young

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Education Reimagined
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