Debate Magazine

Why Most Conversations About Education Start with the Wrong Premise

By Stevemiranda

The overwhelming majority of the discussions around fixing our schools happen with the wrong set of assumptions. For the most part, pundits argue about the best ways to deliver academic content from teachers to students.

That’s the old way of thinking.

The point of school should not be about teachers delivering academic content to students. Initiatives that start with this premise and aim to transform our schools may celebrate important achievements, but they will fail to reach their goal of transforming the institution. They will merely be working at the margins of the fundamental problem.

The new way of thinking is that the point of school is to facilitate the transition from childhood to adulthood. That means designing schools based on research from the field of human development, not on research on how to raise test scores.

Academic content is important—it’s really important!—and it’s best learned by kids who are pursuing material that interests them, who are surrounded by adults they trust, who are intrinsically motivated to learn, who are mature and responsible, and who have a sense of autonomy over their education.


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