From the Co-Founders:
The humanity of children has been lost within the system of education. As a society, we have become so fixated on what children can and cannot do, we have lost sight of who they are. We define success and failure in narrow terms that are applied to all children irrespective of the individual. Within this enforced standardization, compliance is valued over conviction, correctness over courage, passivity over passion, and uniformity over what makes each of us so unique - our identities.
Children go to school day after day where they are told what to learn, when to learn, and how to learn. If they master that day’s lesson, they may be given something harder to work on, and if not, they will be given something easier; but most certainly they will be told what to work on with little or no choice or agency. They will be told when to start working and when to stop, they will be told when to talk (and with whom) and when to be silent, and they will be told when they are allowed to stand up and move and when they have to stay seated. Any deviations from what has been told to them will be considered unacceptable and insubordinate. This routine will then continue 4-8 times a day, as students rotate through content classes that are disconnected from the complexity of their world and each other, with a brief pause to eat or use the restroom during short designated time slots.
In each class, children will be asked to prove they learned what they were told to learn. The sum of their efforts will be distilled to a letter grade of an A, B, C, D, or F. As a result of this paradigm, children will be socialized to believe that there is usually just one answer; that right answers are good and wrong answers are bad; and that the meaning to the work they do does not extend beyond the grade they receive. In the rare instances where their work will mean more, it will be connected to a vague and distance promise that it will matter someday in their future.
Their grades will then be rolled up into anonymous data reports to generate more grades telling them whether their teacher is good, whether their peers are good, and whether their school is good -- all through a mechanism that does not know them, that does not know their peers, and that does not know their teachers.
This is no way to treat children, nor does it produce results. Children, upon graduation, are thrown into a world that expects them to be creative, think outside the box, navigate teams and dynamic relationships, be self-starters, comfortably tackle problems that have no clear solution, all while working to make the world more just, equitable, and inclusive. Layered on top of that, they are now responsible for their own needs, happiness, and fulfillment. They are left struggling to reconcile what they had been prepared for through their education, a world where everything was standardized, dictated, and where following the rules resulted in an A, and the real world, which is complex, has no roadmap and is unpredictable.
There is a need to radically transform the mindsets that underpin our current education system. We must ask ourselves what conditions nurture love and empathy, motivate us to be agents of change in the face of social injustice, allow us to deeply understand ourselves and others, and inspire the creativity to both dream and act. We must identify those conditions and use them to help create a school that honors the humanity and inner-brilliance of the people within it.
A revolutionized paradigm is needed to not only actualize and amplify who we can be at our best, but to also protect us from what we can be at our worst. We have seen communities throughout history achieve extraordinary feats of humanity, and we have also seen communities seek out to destroy the very essence of humanity. The way we raise our children predicts the world in which we live. If we believe we can be better and do better as a society, then we must transform our schools to become places that humanize children.
Excerpt from a letter written by a Holocaust survivor to educators, published in “Teacher and Child” by Dr. Haim Ginott, child psychologist and author:
“I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness: gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot by high school and college graduates. So, I am suspicious of education.
My request is:
Help your children become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths or educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.”