1 Samuel 17:33 – And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.”
Most of you are likely familiar with Sir Ken Robinson’s discussions on our educational system and its detrimental impact on student creativity (see Do School’s Kill Creativity?). Robinson argues that our current means of educating children results in a diminished ability for students to think “outside the box.” Taking this thinking a step further, I believe that not only does the “factory model” of schooling diminish creativity, it also develops a sense of helplessness among students–a perception that they are incapable of making a difference in their own lives, at school, in the community and in the world. A travesty of immeasurable proportions.
All too often, our students see themselves, and their actions, as inconsequential–irrelevant in a world ruled by adults. Our schools are guilty of perpetuating this thinking, especially when the model of instruction is one in which teachers are perceived as imparting knowledge, and students are viewed as consumers. Making a difference is seen as something that will be done in the future–when students get to high school, college, or beyond. School is where they learn the skills they will need to be productive citizens (be honest, is that line in your school’s mission statement?), not where they actually engage in meaningful change.
We need to begin empowering kids as change makers early in their educational experience–providing them with opportunities to see that their actions can have a positive impact on others. This goes beyond canned food drives and coin collections (although these certainly play a role). Students need to see the results of their actions. They need to see the impact their efforts have on others. They need to hear the compliments and thank-you’s. They need to get their hands dirty, so to speak, and engage in projects and activities that have a visible impact on others. Students need to understand that they are not too young to be difference makers.
There are big problems in our world and our students will play a critical role in developing solutions. We need them to understand that they don’t have to wait to have an impact. Engaging in change making builds empathy, self-esteem and self-confidence. Once students realize they can change the world, school is a piece of cake.
When it comes to making a difference, we need fewer spectators, and more giant killers.