What else can they dream of?
I had my 8th grade advisees for a Study Hall on Tuesday, and I tried these questions out on them. It’s not the first time I’ve tried to have a “problems with school” conversation within the school structure. The setting and environment certainly warp the response. Often, kids start off timidly, as if you’ve posed this question as part of some nefarious trap. (“Hah! You don’t like science?!? ALL SCIENCE FOR YOU!”) In the process of convincing them that you’d really like to hear their unrestricted thoughts, MS students will often swing radically the other direction (“Just Athletics form noon to 3, twice a week.”), but without any conviction for their revolution.
Again, everything is seen as a modification to an already known recipe. Start at 10am and run till 5, rather than 8 – 3. Put “real” classes before lunch, and then an open-choice elective section afterwards. Open up the electives to include real specialization rather than the broad MS classes (Art, Drama, Music). Let students choose what kind of English class they want to take – focusing on Poetry, Journalism, Novels, Satire. Interestingly, there were no equivalent suggestions for any other discipline. In their minds, English is a broad canvas full of many loosely connected, but non-sequential ideas and topics. Math, Science and History are by contrast fully static and linear bodies of information, and must be consumed in the proper order and at the proper time.
The fundamental attitude was one of distrust for themselves and their own desires. If they wanted school to be a certain way, then obviously it *had* to be unworkable.
L: Maybe the kids should help make the rules and the schedule?
M: That’s a fail.
That exchange was from two kids who would be exemplary students on an honors, rules or scheduling team. This is what they learn from us; our fear and condescension, internalized and reflected back.
My takeaway line was this:
“We should make it a school where kids aren’t scared to be different.”