It’s school enrollment season and as the parent of a kindergartener, I’ve been thinking about education a lot.
A few weeks ago, I listened to a podcast by The Mom Hour in which they reflected on their school priorities. That got me thinking about my priorities for my girls’ education. The three that I keep coming back to, time and time again are:
1. Diversity. My life has been enriched because of diversity. My faith has grown through friendships with diverse people. Beyond my personal stories, however, I know that our world is getting increasingly connected, not less. I want my girls to be able to thrive as global citizens, something that can only happen if their norm is being with people who don’t look, act, or think like them.
2. Active participation. As a youth and family pastor who’s done a fair amount of work studying how children learn, I’ve concluded over and over again that kids learn best by doing, by being active participants – rather than spectators – in a classroom. For that reason, I want my girls to attend a school where they are active participants in learning, where discussion and engagement are highly valued and where they aren’t confined to desks all day. Group work is a priority – and not the kind of dreaded group work I grew up with where you were assigned a group that you completed a project with that, inevitably, only ONE person really worked hard on. Instead, I want my girls to be in a school where learning and growing collaboratively happens on a regular basis. Not only do I think this is how kids learn best, but I also think this is the way of the future. I cannot think of a single career that does not require people to collaborate with others in some way. They just don’t exist.
3. An emphasis on reading, writing, and communicating with others. As an avid reader, author, and speaker, I know I’m more than a little biased on this one BUT I’m also someone who has an electrical engineering degree. For years, I’ve heard people espouse the virtues of STEM and don't get me wrong, these things are important. But here’s the thing. You can choose a career that does not involve STEM. But you cannot escape reading, writing, and communicating with others… It’s there, in every single career you’ll ever have, including STEM oriented ones. To function in society, you simply have to know how to do these three things… And so I want my girls to be in a place that values and prioritizes them from day one.
In the five years that I’ve been a parent, my educational priorities have shifted from what was prioritized in the schools I attended (things like test scores and college admission rates) to what I’ve actually come to value based on my experience and a fair amount of research. I’m guessing that while they’ll continue to shift as my girls grow, I’ll always prioritize these three things in my girls’ education.
I’m curious: When it comes to education, what are your priorities?