What we need now is a new approach to educating our youth, that centers around their unique needs as individuals and as a peer group. A philosophy that looks beyond the school day and shapes the entire education lifespan, from prenatal care and parental well-being through higher education.
Designing an integrated system that supports children from the time they are born so that they are fully maximizing the critical first five years of development through their traditional education years and into an appropriate post-high school graduation study such as vocational training, apprenticeships or college, and then into a path of lifelong learning and continuous improvement.
We need to re-examine the theoretical frameworks on which we’ve built our current educational practices to see if they are still relevant to today’s students and those of the future. And we need to support, both through encouragement and funding, new research to support theory turning to practice.
Above all, we need to know that whatever new philosophical underpinnings we select now may become obsolete or in need of revision in the future. The key for now and beyond is to be flexible in our approach to education as we continue to learn new information about brain development, social and emotional needs of children, youth and adults, and promising practices that can inform new decisions.
I submit that the new philosophy of education must move beyond the four walls of the traditional classroom, and outside of the box of our current rigid practices and one-size-fits-all mentality.
With the diversity of students, educators, family experience and individual needs, one size no longer fits all, if it ever did. Trying to force all students through a single model, or even a handful of models, of education and somehow expecting that all students will then be successful is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
By focusing on leaving no child behind, we are leaving many behind in the name of school rankings and standardized test results. Whether it is forcing out children and youth who are not succeeding in traditional education so they don’t skew the school overall results, or pushing children through grades because we’d rather someone else deal with them or are too overworked to give them the individual attention and instruction they need to succeed, it is difficult to claim that we are bringing all children along in the educational process.
Part of redesigning the system to be functioning, holistic approach across the lifespan requires the cessation of in-fighting and blaming among disconnected current systems.
Elementary schools are saying children aren’t coming to Kindergarten prepared and ready to learn, and want to push down their academic curriculum into the early childhood and preschool learning environments. Colleges are blaming high schools for not having graduating seniors prepared for the academic rigor of college.
Businesses are lamenting the lack of a qualified workforce and the need to cast wider and wider nets to attract highly-skilled applicants for their positions. And our baby boomers are steadily aging out of the workforce and retiring, but with little thought to the succession plan of the companies they have been running.
As the complaints of all trickle down, more and more pressure is placed on the earliest years of a child’s education, where the greatest development occurs and the least funding is supporting.
Many educators and organizations are beginning to embrace these tenets. But our work is not done. We need to consistently focus on integrating all levels of education and career so that we can support students to achieve their highest potential.