User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Student Voice in Educational Reform

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Young people are developing their voice to clearly articulate the need of the educational systems to change to better meet their needs –  educationally, personally, and professionally (yes, young people have professional needs).  They have something to say.  They should be heard.

15 year old, Arooj Ahmad, in the Washington Post piece, A 15-year-old student’s ed reform plan: Self-directed learning, emphasized the need to move away from a test-driven and memorization-based culture to one that focuses on wholistic learning and freedom of choice.

Learning should be messy! Divergent thinking can be taught. Teachers, administrators, policy makers, and even students will have to step out of their comfort zones to remove the standardized, short-term mentality about learning.

Students shouldn’t learn material just for the sake of passing the test. They should learn for the sake of learning. Students should enjoy going to school. The practical solution to accomplish this lies in two key improvements that must take hold in today’s education system: relevant, holistic curricula and freedom of subject choice.

We must think differently about human capacity. The old habits of our institutions and their environments must be reformed. As Albert Einstein once said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

Dale J. Evans, 19 years old, in the New York Times Learning Network discussed Hacking Education:

Going along with the program seems pretty sweet. I could have written papers, skipped class and partied until dawn. After four years as a college student, I would have had many friends, a good job and letters after my name. But I left college because I realized I couldn’t rely on a university to give me an education.  To get a real education, I took matters into my own hands.

Students who hack our educations will change the world. You can tell these students apart because they have spark in their eyes, and if you ask them about their passion they won’t stop talking.

To these two, I am reposting the voices of two other insightful young people –  Erica Goldson’s Valedictorian speech and Adora TED talk originally discussed in Student Voices: School Failure, Reform, and Hope.

Erica Goldson’s Valedictorian’s Speech

I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse,You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

Adora Svitak’s TED Talk: What Adults can learn from kids

Adults, you need to listen and learn from kids and trust us and expect more from us. You must lend and ear today, because we are the leaders of tomorrow. We are going to be the next generation, the ones who will bring this world forward. Now, the world needs opportunities for new leaders and new ideas. Kids need opportunities to lead and succeed. Are you ready to make the match? The world’s problems shouldn’t be the human family’s heirloom.

As a teacher, I believe in listening deeply and seriously to what learners have to say about the ways they want to be educated.

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Education

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3 Responses

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  1. Hi Jackie,

    I appreciate the post. I am really interested in providing my students with a space to create a an educational experience that will serve them in an authentic, humanizing way. Just today I had a really moving talk with a student about his feelings towards school. It echoed the thoughts of the students in this post. I am going to share this with him tomorrow, I think he will feel a lot better knowing he is not alone.

    Bryce Miller (@brycemiller75)

    November 23, 2011 at 6:18 am

    • Thanks, Bryce – and your sharing this with a student so he doesn’t feel alone is HUGE.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:44 pm

  2. I agree that students are often the unheard voice in the educational debates. Which seems rather odd, considering they are the ultimate “clients” in the educational system. As the largest part of each school’s community, it makes sense to pay close attention to their experiences, interests, needs and desires. We need to think carefully about why student-centered teaching and learning is still a challenge in many schools and how that can be changed. When students have the opportunity to contribute to a school’s culture and curriculum the entire school community stands to benefit.


    May 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm

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