When I drive with my son Tucker in the car, he will often point to a vehicle and rattle off its make, model, and year in an instant. I, on the other hand, will glance in the direction he’s pointing, nod my head affirmingly, and think silently to myself, “Which car is he pointing at?”
For me, cars are cars. They all get us from point A to point B and, beyond simple distinctions like “truck” and “SUV,” I don’t see much difference between them. If a car enthusiast like my son were to point out a vehicle and tell me “that’s the future of the automotive industry,” I’ll share in his excitement because he’s my son and he’s excited. But, once the moment passes and the vehicle is out of view, I’ll think nothing of it. I’ll continue putting money into vehicles I’m familiar with and wait until the world forces me to make a new decision.
It’s only recently that I’ve begun noticing how my relationship to “the future of the automotive industry” has striking parallels to my work in transforming education.
Within the education space, I and everyone else within the learner-centered movement are the car enthusiasts. We see a rich and vibrant landscape of learning possibilities within our communities. And, for those who simply see education as a game to play to get into a good college, our excitement about what the future might hold lands flat.
At the end of the day, these late adopters (like myself with cars) aren’t where we need to focus our attention. That’s a huge relief, but it only solves a portion of the problem. The more urgent part of this conversation, and one I’ve yet to come full circle on with my car metaphor, are those who desire the future we describe but who don’t have a clear distinction between learner-centered education (a transformational approach) and innovative reform (an additive or “fixing” approach).
The implications of this lack of distinction are particularly striking within the world of philanthropic and public funding—a topic I will look to dive into more deeply, soon. For now, suffice it to say, without philanthropy seeing the distinction, money will continue to only drip into the learner-centered field and flow abundantly within the innovative reform space.
Given that, I’m more driven than ever to continue finding ways to talk about the learner-centered paradigm in clear and distinct ways. And, if you have stories or metaphors that have worked well in your community, I and the Education Reimagined team would love to hear them.
Keep up the amazing work,