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Guest opinion: An outline for changing to a student-oriented school system

Students raise their hands in a classroom.
Students raise their hands in a classroom.
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With a focus on students, parents and teachers unite to help each child grow in five major human powers: 1) The power of knowing who you are, 2) The power of will, 3) The power of curiosity, 4) The power of imagination, and 5) The power of love. With these powers, students accomplish much more than they do under a subject-imposed system of standardization.

The power of knowing who you are

In his “Book of Learning and Forgetting,” Frank Smith tells us, “All learning pivots on who we think we are and who we see ourselves capable of becoming.” This puts a challenge on parents and teachers to help students find out who they are and develop a vision of a bright future as valuable contributors to the world. Talent shows are often used to help students discover who they are.

The power of will

One purpose of schools is to help every student exercise the personal power of will to become whatever she or he wants to become. James Allen in his little book, “As a Man Thinketh,” tells of the amazing strength of willpower: “The human Will, that force unseen, can hew a way to any goal, though walls of granite intervene.” The opportunity of teachers and parents is to help students understand and use this mighty power.

The power of curiosity

Victor Weisskopf, a famous atomic scientist, explained how curiosity works with student questions: “People cannot learn by having information pressed into their brains. Knowledge has to be sucked into the brain, not pushed in.” Questions are the means whereby students “suck knowledge into their brains.” Information that is “pressed into the brain” usually has no lasting effect. It may be the reason Plato said, “Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind.” In other words, required or assigned learning usually makes no difference unless a student shows she or he wants it by creating questions about it. Weisskopf told teachers and parents how to build curiosity by helping students develop an “urge to know.”

The power of imagination

This is the power of creativity. Whenever we open our mouths to organize words into sentences, we use this power. We use imagination and creativity to decide what words to use and how to arrange them to have the desired effect. Verbal creativity is also the power of gifted poets, which they and famous orators and authors use to communicate their thoughts. A second power of imagination is nonverbal creativity in which someone invents a product or better way of doing things and reveals it with art or music. The power of imagination can be expressed in many ways. Engaging students in dialogue and helping them find joy in creative writing are but two of the ways.

The power of love

Classrooms where every student excels in something are more conducive to the power of love. Bullying does not exist when students are infused with the “power of love.” Cooperation replaces competition when students see value in helping one another develop their unique selves.

Any one, or all, of the five main human powers can be used to start building student-oriented education. Great benefit will come if a school district, school or the State Board of Education chooses one or more of the powers to develop during the 2019-20 school year. If you can imagine a school where every student excels, where there is no bullying, no dropouts, no standardized achievement testing and a group of dedicated teachers and parents working in partnership, you may want to help develop student-oriented education.