Not another new curriculum paradigm!

Many people seem to think that they have come up with the best way of educating children. 

For decades, educators have been trying to adapt, change and re-mold the learning experience for our young people.

Many of the schools who boast a new, progressive approach genuinely want what they think is the best for their children. Many are also motivated by the competitive success for the school, and some, by their egos.

I won’t bore you with my background in education, but I’ve been that person. I’ve worked hard, over the last 25 years, on new curriculum approaches and have represented existing so called ‘progressive’ approaches within established systems. Many claim to be ‘child centered’ or ‘Inquiry based’, but in reality, they just manage to snip around the edges of an already broken educational system.

Ask yourself this question:

Does a curriculum paradigm need to teach children what we think they need to know, or should we trust children to follow their own paths?

Traditional schools, even so called ‘progressive’ ones, often focus on the first part of the sentence. 

Real learning should focus on the second.

I find myself saying “STOP!” when I hear interviews or read about the latest progressive paradigm. They all talk about how important it is to ‘produce’ intelligent, empowered, purposeful critical thinkers. They talk about how ‘inquiry based learning’ should focus on the  interests and ideas of the children – but in reality, they are offering a mostly teacher led – subject led experience.

I hear this comment often;

 “You need children to be exposed to certain subjects at school, because otherwise how will they know they exist?” 

Forget that for a minute. Just close your eyes for 10 seconds and then open them. What do you see? You see the world around you. Your mind is constantly asking questions about that world. The answer to those questions may lead you to either continue that line of enquiry or leave it, and eventually you will come across something that interests you so much, you want to spend more time on it – as much time as you like.

We need to just trust that children WILL learn. They can’t NOT learn. They need to talk, experience the world around them, meet interesting people, do interesting things, ask questions and feel that personal drive to intrinsic motivation and the joy of learning and the world around them.

What’s the best curriculum paradigm for children? The answer is no curriculum paradigm for children. Their curriculum is their imagination. We as educators need to give them the space and time to discover what they find interesting. Our role as adults is to be there for them, to facilitate their own personal journey and help them create an environment where they feel trusted, connected and in control of their own lives.

Don’t worry that they won’t know ‘stuff’. If you leave them alone, they will not only know ‘stuff’ but what they know will be simply deeper and more meaningful than most of what they are told in a traditional School.

If you find it hard to believe all of this. I simply ask that you talk to someone who has lived a self-directed education life. I’m sure you’ll find them incredibly interesting!

Ben Kestner

July 2022

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