The biggest problem in schools today is actually one that’s vexed adults in education for almost all times.
The problem is the reality that children and youth—students, the actual reason why schools exist—don’t do exactly what adults want them to, when they want them to, where they want them to, how they want them to.
The main reason this happens is that adults don’t recognize that all children and youth are fully human right now. They are not adults-in-the-making or halfway people; they are full humans right now.
Seeing them as other than that is par for the course in schools. It is why curriculum was formulated how it was for thousands of years, and necessitates the attitudes, actions, and perceptions of teachers every day. Everything in schools is predicated on this perception of young people as less-than-fully-human.
This perception allows adults throughout the education system to treat students as the passive recipients of education, rather than active partners. After generations of this treatment, many students have lost their imagination and the ability to see themselves contributing equally to the teaching and leadership roles throughout education, rather, accepting that learning means sitting quietly and accepting whatever adults dole out. Without a vote, without authority, and without equitable relationships with adults, students do not have the right to dissent, free speech, or self-control. Ultimately, they surrender their humanity in schools every single day.
Society is driving young people towards a different reality than has ever been experienced before. Fully capable of accessing the world through technology and social networking, students are less reliant on adults-as-overseers than ever before. Instead, they are making long strides towards securing a new relationship with adults on their own terms.
However, rather than allowing society to descend headlong into the furrows of anarchistic, faux-American self-reliance, ethically responsive adults and young people have to activate their own hands and hearts in order to create the change they want to see in the world.
I believe the location for this work to start is in schools.