The title of this blog post is taken from a video discussion involving three students from Youth in Action, a student advocacy group that places students at the center of school reform (social change in general, really).
And where else should students be?
I have said many times in this blog and IRL that education has become too political and adult-centered; change is not happening for the benefit of students, regardless of how many educational buzzwords are thrown around. Education should be utterly student-centered; the only question to ask when implementing a reform is really more of a gut-check for adults: is what we are about to do truly for the benefit of kids? If there is any doubt, throw it out.
Recently I spoke with several people who insisted that pulic school is changing to be more focused on students because it has to, and yet speaking to kids in public schools and teachers in the trenches, and watching the news or reading essays and articles on education, these changes do not seem at all student-centered. There is still a dogged insistence on standardized testing (and standardized teaching - I still love the administrator who told me he would have to observe me again because the lesson he dropped in on was "too student-centered")); there are still textbook adoption committees. Both of these things ignore the reality of students and the world, and that is just the beginning. Funding formulas, charter schools, grading and teacher training have not changed substantively in quite some time, and the (lack of) quality of public schools shows that clearly.
You want reform? Ask kids. Then listen. Imagining Learning is doing that, and the results are clear. Students want a voice and respect; they want belonging, community involvement, meaningful work. Any school that does not offer these things is a dinosaur.
As the student in the video says, "Nothing without us is for us." When is the last time you listened to a kid?