Generation Why?

Like most adult readers, my summer reading is an eclectic mix of text, both paper and electronic~ bits and bytes if you will.  Novels, magazines, business and social commentary, newspapers and the many tweets and blog postings of others.  Place me in my comfy lounger by the pool out back and let me read is a recipe for bliss; especially now that I’m a parent (read chauffeur to 3 busy teens).

I must admit that, as I’ve settled into to the lounger to read, my mind has been churning with disruptive thoughts as I’ve reflected upon the end of the school year and the graduation ceremonies that I had the chance to participate in as the school year wrapped up.  In my own school, in the school that my eldest son attended and, in the school of a colleague I endured (yes endured) graduation rituals that, upon reflection, seem to be evidence of an accelerating disconnect between our schools and our children.

The trappings of the traditional school graduation ceremony are hegemonic and indicative of the school system and culture that we have (and have had for a long time).  The procession, the dress, the order of the ceremony and the awards are all fairly consistent and static. Like many things in education, the graduation ceremony has remained unchanged and is familiar and meaningful  to all attendees, grandparents, parents and faculty.  What’s been nagging me is the relevance the ceremony has with the students. From what I observed, perhaps, not so much.

Many writers, wiser than I, have pointed out that this generation of learners is different in the fact that they have the tools and the desire to collaborate and learn in meaningful ways outside of school, and that our work as educators must account for this reality. As I watched my son, his peers and the graduates of our school move towards the end of the school year I’ve seen this reality play out again and again through a familiar context, the asking of the question why.

I’m used to students asking the question why~ usually why the have to do a certain task or why they have to learn this stuff.  In the past, we could deflect those questions with responses such as, “this will be on the test.” or, “You need to know this for high school.”  What’s changed is the fact that we are no longer to holders of the font of knowledge and Generation Why knows it. My burning question this summer (and beyond) is how do we adapt and renew our schools to maximize the potential and opportunities that Generation Why represent?

Which lead me to my helpful summer reading. Daniel Pink’s latest work Drive has helped me consider the role that autonomy, creativity and purpose has in school and how, perhaps our ideas and cultural modes  of schooling are not meeting the needs of of our students or our teachers.  Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson-   has pushed me to consider how deeply integrated, tool-based collaboration has re-shaped the work place the the how the landscape of business and education can shift to adapt to this change.

In spite of my nagging thoughts, I’m hopeful and energized with the chance that we have as the current generation of educators and leaders. How rapidly and deeply this process can be carried out is unknown.  I’m opening up a conversation with this blog and inviting your thoughts and responses…jump in!

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