It has been an exciting last two weeks. In addition to Education Reimagined hosting a wonderful meeting of learner-centered movement builders in Denver last week, I attended a roundtable meeting earlier this week in Washington, DC hosted by the National Governors Association, FHI 360, and The Fab Foundation on Future Workforce Now: Reimagining Workforce Policy in the Age of Disruption. This event brought together leaders to imagine a continuous learning system that could combine K-12 learning environments, community colleges, higher education institutions, out-of-school learning programs, and workforce development.
In both meetings, I was fascinated by the openness to imagine learning as a lifelong pursuit—one that contributes to individual, family, and community thriving.
The meeting earlier this week was opened by Yong Zhao, who established the perfect context for the conversation. He explained how our current education system can’t be tweaked because it is fundamentally designed to produce standardized results for all children, when the world actually needs the full diversity of human creativity, skills, ideas, and passions to be expressed and celebrated.
Cultivating creativity, entrepreneurialism, and adaptability within each of us is dependent on continually exploring, discovering, and growing the intersections between our talents, passions, and what the world needs from us. This dynamic intersection is the driver of learning. When we see we can make a difference in an endeavor that matters to us, we become enamored by the challenge of developing the skills and knowledge necessary for us to make that difference. And, when we are able to produce a meaningful result, the drive for learning grows.
This high-impact learning is happening in small pockets across the country. During the meeting in Washington, DC, a 17-year-old young man and a 55-year-old woman both shared how their opportunity to learn welding through apprenticeship programs led to them being able to provide valuable contributions to their respective companies. Both developed a new skill that led to full-time jobs, which made them hungry to learn even more—ready to adapt to the fast-changing technological advancements in the field.
Zooming back out, this fundamental view that the diversity of humankind is our greatest asset is the foundation of learner-centered education. Such a mindset knows our role in life is not to become what others want us to be but, instead, to discover our gifts and spend our lives giving those gifts away for the benefit of others.
If the work of education is to continuously deepen the virtuous cycle of pursuing curiosities, interests, passions, or aspirations; learning; and making contributions; how might the world transform? When we recognize the wonder of the world and of each human being, our work as education stakeholders is to nurture the light of each child and let that light lead. And, as we nurture the lights in others, ours will shine brightly, too. With the lights of millions turned on, we will have what we need to face our world’s problems and create a world we are proud to live in.
The time for learner-centered education is now.