Saying “Yes” to School

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If you’re an educator and you haven’t read any John Holt, you might want to. His is an interesting, and provocative perspective on schools.

In Instead of Education, Holt writes this: “I have learned that no one can truly say ‘Yes’ to an idea, mine or anyone else’s, unless he can freely say ‘No’ to it. This is why, except as an occasional visitor, I will no longer do my teaching in compulsory and competitive schools.”

It begs the question, what can our students truly say “yes” to in today’s schools?

They can’t say “yes” to attending, for while some options exist, most are compelled to show up each day.

They can’t say “yes” to the curriculum because most of it is required and organized and paced by someone else.

They can’t say “yes” to being assessed because of our dependence on grades and scores to measure and rank both the kids and ourselves.

The impact of not being able to say “no” is far-reaching. Disengagement. Compliance. Dependence. Misplaced priorities and goals. (See the attached Tweet for an example.)

How might school be different if students were able to say “no,” giving them then the freedom to say “yes?” What might change if we honored their inherent agency to make serious choices about their learning experience?

If they opted in instead of acted out?

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