Our students need to be content creators, not memorisers. We diagnose college students as ‘excellent sheep’ who are ‘spoon-fed by Google and parents that they can no longer cope with difficulty or perform complex mental operations.
Millennials and their younger siblings know difficulty. No college generation in recent times has faced greater global challenges and an educational system more in need of redesign. No generation since the second world war has had to face more real and present danger from fascism, the possibility of a nuclear holocaust, or environmental collapse, compounded by powerful leaders determined to deny these realities. Students are warned that the ‘robots are coming’ but offered an educational system that seems designed not to combat the robots.
Increasingly, we are shrinking educational opportunities for our youth, robbing them of creativity, critical thinking and reducing all knowledge to test scores. All despite many studies stressing the importance of deep learning.
teaching to the test
It’s not just students, also teachers are increasingly judged not by how well their students think or what they understand in deep and complex ways but how well they do on tests. ‘Teaching to the test’ is a survival mechanism for teachers. It’s oversimplification all the way down. In short, the ‘problem’ with students in higher education today isn’t the student but the educational liabilities we’ve saddled them with. We have schooled them to believe formal education is where intellectual creativity and complexity go to die. Yet, in my experience, I find that students today remain admirably resilient, clear-eyed, and even optimistic about their ability to face and solve the difficulties of the world they have inherited.
We know how much time they spend on line interacting and remixing content. These are useful skills in the world we live in. Please, deconstruct the passivity and mindlessness of traditional schooling and challenge your students to take responsibility for their learning by using active, engaged learning principles from Maria Montessori, John Dewey, Paulo Freire and Audre Lorde.
As a lifelong educator, I believe the problem of students today lies in us not in our youth. It is our job to reverse this ‘outcome oriented’ educational monster we have created. We need to design a ‘new education’ that encourages students to deal with complexity, being entrepreneurial and becoming change agents. Because the world needs them more than we think.