The educator John Holt said, “It’s not that I feel that school is a good idea gone wrong, but a wrong idea from the word go. It’s a nutty notion that we can have a place where nothing but learning happens, cut off from the rest of life.”
He explains why school would never work for any kid, but what I’m noticing especially is why it won’t work for Generation Z (born in the beginning of the millennium).
The issue is control. I remember reading, almost a decade ago, that Generation Y is the most photographed generation in history. It still is, of course. And one of the reasons for this is that their parents took insane amounts of pictures because suddenly, with digital cameras, they were free.
But today kids have their own cameras and they are unimpressed with the idea that someone else controls the camera. The photo above is my son screaming, “Stop taking pictures of me for your dumb blog!”
Another moment in this history of information control: My younger son was in the backseat on his own laptop open playing Minecraft, and he had my laptop open next to him playing music. Because we drive sixteen hours a week to and from Chicago, we now have an extra high-end stereo in our high-end BMW, and I couldn’t believe we weren’t using it. So, I said, “Do you want me to put the music through our stereo system?” And he said, “No, I want to be able to control it right here.”
This made me realize that the level of control that Generation Z has over their life is higher than even the most autonomous adult at the turn-of-the-20th-century, when the United States made schooling mandatory for all kids.
We’re teaching kids to control an enormous flow of information going through them, and we’re teaching them to control their audio and visual environment. The idea that all of this should be completely restricted during school is preposterous.
Lisa Nielsen takes a lot of flack for saying that schools should let kids have phones, because phones are an integral part of the learning process. But that only scratches the surface of this generation’s ability to process information at the speed of light.
We think right now that the process of taking kids out of school is in the hands of the parents. There’s going to come a point where it’s so completely ridiculous to restrict the flow of information to students that kids will take themselves out of school.
Lisa shows how this is starting in high school, today, and Silicon Valley is following that lead. The trickle down will happen fast to the younger grades, because the gap between the control kids have outside of school and the lack of control they have inside of school is becoming so wide that it’s about to explode.