What’s In The Future? Full Personhood for All

Adam’s Note: In 2013, Roger Holdsworth asked me to write a piece about the future of schools for his journal in Australia called Connect: Supporting Student Participation. This is what I submitted.

The sun is rising on schools around the world as student voice moves from being passive and coincidental to taking the forefront in schools through Meaningful Student Involvement that engages students as partners throughout education. In twenty years, this will be normalized practice in all schools, and this article will not seem so outlandish. 

By 2030, the complete enfranchisement of full personhood for all people regardless of age will be suddenly embraced world-over by governments and communities of all sizes, young people will be seen and treated as fully human. Originally suggested between the lines of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, this will be the greatest transformation ever in society, and will ripple through all corners of our world.

Walking into an average school, the physical appearance, daily operation, and every outcome will be wholly transformed by this transformation. Rather than stuffy hallways packed with hyper-frenetic students seeking momentary relief between classes, children and youth of all ages will be welcome to come and go at will.
Recognized as self-driven learners from their earliest years, all young people everywhere will be in charge of their own learning, and because of that, every single student will be completely motivated and surely empowered to initiate, drive, fulfill, and complete education to their own satisfaction.

Attendance in schools won’t be limited by age, either. Instead, students will be able to select the learning environment that best suits their desires. Adult learners will co-mingle with young learners as both learn to value the other in new ways.

The hearts and minds of adults will continue to expand as well. Our ability to more effectively engage young people in equitable ways will become invaluable as social change moves more rapidly. People who currently practice and teach the practice of student engagement and voice will be mainstreamed in professional development across all fields of industry, economy, governance, education, human services, and beyond. The frameworks of Meaningful Student Involvement will be seen as essential components for successful living far beyond schools, as
the role of the learner becomes ubiquitous throughout all sectors of society.

This enfranchisement of full personhood will transform educational management as well, and necessarily so. Given the ability to vote from birth, the voices of young people will suddenly be valued by politicians in a new way. Those who did ran early programs to engage youth voice will be awarded with immediate youth support, while others will be required to earn the trust of students. School board members, state, territorial, and federal parliament members, mayors, all elected positions will suddenly be held directly accountable to students themselves. This will lead to a kind of authority that completely transforms educational management in a variety of ways. Pushing for the type of participatory engagement they routinely experience on the Internet today, children and youth will insist upon active democratic processes that reflect their best interests. School bureaucracies will be forced to reinvent their activities to suit the expectations of the elected representatives that control their budgets, who in turn will be voted in by young people.

The outcomes of these systems will be as radical as their transformations. Academic achievement will no longer be the measure by which school performance is metered. Instead, students will come to understand that personal engagement throughout their own lives and within the larger world they are members of is more important. Schools will devise systems for measuring self-sustainability, personal growth, and social well-being. Their actions will be valued throughout the larger society, as the health of democracies suddenly spikes upon these transformative measures. Ultimately, economic growth, civic engagement, social contributions, cultural inheritances, and peace and nonviolence will be seen as the outcomes of the experience of schooling.

As a pathway towards enfranchisement of full personhood for all people regardless of age, student voice in schools is one avenue. Others include youth engagement throughout society, including civic, economic, cultural, recreational, and familial activities. Further still, the creation of advanced structures of support for young people, including training, funding, and personal support programs, will help take society there.

Ultimately though, the most powerful step any of us can take is to transform the ways we see and treat children and youth every single day. If every one of us changed our own attitudes and behaviors, we would see the complete engagement of young people emerge as a new cultural norm within a generation. More importantly though, we would continue to influence and motivate succeeding generations of children and youth as they change the world they live in. I believe there is no greater action we can take.

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