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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

School is Out, But Will We Ever Learn?

The Class of 2019 just graduated and school is almost out for the Summer.

So what did we learn? How did we do?

Well, if there was a collective end-of-year report card for All Schools Everywhere, I'd be surprised if there wasn't at least a passing reference to the day an FBI investigation - nicknamed Operation Varsity Blues - uncovered a college admissions scandal, exposing the reality that some parents were, by way of bribes, illegally buying their children access to top colleges and universities.

In a year in which David Gleason's remarkable book, At What Cost? Defending Adolescent Development in Fiercely Competitive Schools, was mandatory reading for many of us, we would perhaps be commended for our academic consideration of the possibility that we are "overscheduling, overworking and, at times, overwhelming" our students. Most of us, however, would likely "lose marks" for our inability to transfer this knowledge to any real world situations.

In a year that began with Prince Ea inviting us to answer the question "What is school for?" some of us might have struggled to write down, in one hundred words or less ,a clear, concise and relevant answer. And, as for the oral defence of our thesis in front of a tough crowd of middle school students, we'd probably rather not say.

A black and white photograph of a man in a graduation cap and gown
Happiness for the Class of 2019 begins with learning how to breathe.

So, all in all, how did we do?

Our summative reflection is kindly provided by a student named Carolyn Walworth.

Students are gasping for air, lacking the time to draw a measly breath in. We are the product of a generation … that so desperately wants us to succeed but does not understand our needs.

These words were written in 2015, but it appears that they are as true now as they were then.

And if we take a moment to look deeper into what our student-teacher is telling us, we might just find an answer to what drove parents to bribe their children into college; we might just hear an echo of everything that Gleason is challenging us to listen to; and we might just realise that we are the generation that has too hastily equated happiness with good grades + a good university + a good job.

The Class of 2019 just graduated. And deep down I think we all know that the life we want for them is to breathe, to be happy, to form meaningful relationships, to be kind, to look after themselves and others, to have choices, to find their passion, to be resilient, to laugh uncontrollably with friends, to be there for one another, to love and to be loved.

Not gasping for air. Not now. Nor any time in the future.

Which makes me think that there is still some work to be done on our part.

Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash



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