Debate Magazine

A New Metaphor

By Stevemiranda

The old metaphor for thinking about school is the factory. Kids show up, move along a conveyor belt, everything is standardized.

Everyone knows we need a new metaphor, and the best one I’ve heard is the garden. Kids are like flowers in that they have everything they need to grow up strong and healthy. All we need to do as teachers is to make sure that the soil is rich and, every once in a while, add water.

Our error is that we’re messing up the metaphor. We’re ignoring the soil. Instead, we’re focused on improving the curriculum, which is like the seed. If we can just engineer a new and better seed, the plant will grow up strong and healthy.

But the schools we send kids to every day are not healthy environments. They’re based not on passion or purpose, but on competition, conformity, and compliance. The relationship between teacher and student is too often defined by a letter grade. Since many kids approach classes with the goal of getting the maximum possible grade for the minimum amount of work, it makes the two parties adversaries instead of allies. Kids are forced into required classes that don’t interest them. The learning time is arbitrarily limited to 55 minute chunks of time, and when the bell rings it’s time to move on to the next thing.

We’re planting seeds in a bed of concrete. That’s why the plant doesn’t grow up strong and healthy.

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