Don’t let kids run the school

It seems we have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at education reform. Here is the new proposal: get rid of teachers and have student devise their own curriculum, collaborate on group projects, and monitor each other’s progress. In short, “let kids run the school.”

If the proposal sounds novel and intriguing, well it’s not. Dewey initiated this long train of thought that began with the premise that each child is unique, and so each teacher should nurture that uniqueness. Engel’s latest proposal amounts to the endgame of this line of thinking: the teacherless classroom.

I’m being uncharitable, of course. On the one hand, this proposal is the correct expression of social alienation, with children no longer feeling as if they can identify with the school systems through which they pass. But that is chiefly because there is no ethical vision, no higher mission in public education apart from vocational training. Indeed, who’s to blame them? The test prep movement is broken but not without breaking them. On the other hand, the current proposal is without a doubt morally bankrupt as it leaves off-stage the final end toward which students ought to strive. How do we want their soul to look?

The task, therefore, is to devise an alternative educational model that (1) provides our young persons with moral guides, (2) creates in them a sense of wonder and curiosity, and (3) marks out a path of moral, intellectual development.

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