As a parent or teacher how often do you hear, “I’m bored.”? It seems to spew from the mouths of kids. I know as a teenager I was particularly guilty. I read a great piece recently by Brian Jay Stanley who notes that everything–every subject, every opportunity, every object–is interesting, but what lacks is our understanding of it. When we don’t understand something, we tune it out, we move on, we get bored. Listening to a conversation in Hindi as a native English speaker well, my mind starts to wander pretty quickly, because all I hear is a string of meaningless barrage. Same goes for an accounting textbook. But it’s not that accounting is inherently boring, it’s just of no interest to me.
Our world is full of interesting and exciting concepts, but too often we are forced to learn things that seem meaningless to us. Our formal education system has been designed as just that, a formal learning environment where the teachers and school boards decide the curriculum. The students have no choice. As a 4th grader in California you’re going to learn about California History whether you’d like to or not. Pull out your history books class.
But what if there was a way to engage students more informally? Is is possible to design a system where the students lead? Where they design the curriculum? The students and teachers at Democratic Schools seem to think so.
Check in on Thursday for an interview with Jay Cross, one of the world’s foremost experts in the informal learning movement.