A Mother’s Dream
As parents, we have dreams for our children’s futures. We dream that they will be extraordinary — that they will write novels, become virtuosos, or gain the civic and political knowledge necessary to change the world. Every child should dream of being president, or a movie star, or a world-class athlete, or a famous novelist or composer, or a wildly successful entrepreneur. Every child should not just dream of the presidency or the Super Bowl or of being the next Lin-Manuel Miranda or Steve Jobs: every child should have access to an education that supports rather than hinders his or her quest to become the best version of the person she or he has the capacity to be.
But standardized public education has little hope of nurturing passions or encouraging dreams. Standardized education limits possibilities, and narrows curiosity. Children who spend all of their times trying to find the right answers to other people’s questions learn to stop asking their own questions — and without questions, curiosity withers and dies. I read so much about the goal of education being to prepare my child for college or career: but what those articles never drill down on is, “What career?” Reading between the lines, however, the college or career preparation today’s education reformers imagine is limited in scope: our kids should be, they say, marching in lockstep toward the STEM careers of tomorrow.
My kid doesn’t dream of a STEM career programming computers in a dusty cubicle. Is that really the extent of what my child’s aspirations should be? My child dreams of being the next Lin-Manuel Miranda. My child dreams of curing cancer. My child dreams of opening her own interior design firm. My child dreams of being a prize-winning journalist, exposing corruption and explaining policy issues to the voters whose ballots can influence our futures (or at least of being the next Valerie Strauss).
Providing our children — ALL of our children — with educations that do not standardize them, that do not shut down those dreams before they begin — that is a noble purpose of public education. Providing our children with the tools necessary to be informed and conscientious citizens — that is a noble purpose of public education. I dream of public education for children — for ALL children — that equips them with the tools to be thoughtful citizens, and with the encouragement to follow their hopes into the future. I dream of a public education that imbues children — ALL children — with the tools they need to make a meaningful impact, hopefully for the better, on the world.
I dream of a world in which public education opens endless possibilities, not of a world in which creativity and passion are sacrificed to the false gods of standardization and faux-rigor. This weekend is the Network for Public Education’s 3rd Annual Conference. I arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina a little while ago. This weekend, what I look forward to is spending time with hundreds of adults from across the country, all of whom share big dreams for our children, our future, and for the possibilities of what public education can and should be. This weekend, I won’t be dreaming alone.