I’ve been thinking a lot about success lately. What makes a successful education? How do we know that the experiences created in a school, in a program, in a classroom actually matter? There’s increasingly sophisticted ways of measuring this stuff and depending on your philosophical orientation (if it exists in any quantity it can be measured vs. the child’s life is an integral, a total one) you may believe or not. I’m not the smartest guy on this question — gallons of Ph.D. blood have been spilled on it — but I think about it in terms of my classes and what I want for my own children.
I start my adolescent literacy course with this question:
Which would your rather your child have: an 800 on their verbal SAT or a love of reading?
And my undergrads forced the following question during a particulalry rich conversation one afternoon:
which would your rather have: a 4.0 GPA in college without having learned anything or a 2.7 GPA with a sense of genuine accomplishment?
Both inquiries raise numerous issues: one, when there’s more at stake than intellectual enrichment and/or a complete life, “real” learning goes by the wayside, and two, the most important things are really hard to measure.
We want to try andcreate a school that starts with the ideals — loving the work and genuine accomplishment. We want to ensure that all the forces that chip away at what’s important don’t gain traction, where kids look at their own learning in a way that values real engagement. We want a place where kids and adults get lost together in projects they each have an equal stake in. This isn’t to say that we don’t respect other values (800 verbal and 4.0 GPAs) but that we’re truly committed to a different approach, one that begins with authentic work knowing that the scores and grades will follow.