One of my mentors (through his books and online work) linked to a video in his blog this morning. Here is my response to the people raving about the beautiful work Seth Godin pointed out done by Ryan Lotocki, Nick Stroczkowski, Kurt Schlewitt and their peers:
Yes! Now how do we do that? How do we allow students to “project their abilities” in “interactive” ways rather than “labeling” them “by standards” and controlling them “by a bell that rings”? Yes, many commenters on the video page say they agree, and I bet a lot of others who didn’t bother to comment think they do as well. But do you, really?
Do you believe that the music, food, and sport skills displayed in this video really are “genius”? Do you believe that if you put students “on an even playing field” and empowered them to be “proactive” and “choose their positions based on their passions, values, and where they can be proactive” they would display genius? I do. I don’t believe each young person is “a genius” in the traditional use of the term. I do believe they each have the capacity for genius in them. And, the way Seth uses the word, they have the capacity for magic in them too.
I also believe that by testing them and ranking them and labeling them by standards, we suck the magic out of them. We drain from them the courage to take their places on the big playing field of life and work. We thoroughly convince them that the numbers are a true assessment of what they can and can’t do and, in Seth’s words, we steal their dreams. We need to stop doing that.
If you believe that too, you need to know that is not the only option. The alternative I know best is Montessori education. For a glimpse into how this is working to do what Ryan asks, check out this video or this school or this one – or the Montessori schools in your town. They aren’t all the same – and some aren’t much better than schools with bells that control the day. Some, however, are absolute magic.