The Power of Contradictions in Education

Posted on December 2, 2015


I’ve been thinking a lot about what people really want in education. If you talk to enough people you start running in to contradictions, or at least what seem like contradictions:

I want a school that is open to new ideas and tries new things based on the latest research.

I’m so frustrated by our school (or school district). They keep changing everything. I don’t understand what is going on.

… or …

Schools are too focused on test scores. They aren’t providing enough time for play and interesting multidisciplinary work.

School X is the best school in the district. Their test scores are significantly better than the other schools.

This felt enormously frustrating and led me to believe that you just couldn’t develop a school that effectively met the needs of most families and students.

The more I dig in, though, the more it feels like these aren’t actually contradictions but rather a call for balance and that many if not most parents deeply want balance when they think about their child’s education even if they don’t specifically discuss it.

Here are some examples of balance:

Stability and effectively set expectations, but with experimentation and continuous improvement.

Strong foundational knowledge but room to explore interests.

A challenging and rigorous environment that is also caring, respectful and focused on social-emotional needs.

A strong community that makes room for the individual.

Understand and respect how the world works but have the independence and confidence to change it.

Empowered to go after what they want in life but not spoiled to the point of thinking they deserve it without hard work.

Loving life while still capable of dealing with the inevitable hardships effectively.

This is just a rough brainstorm, but I’m increasingly surprised by how effectively these somewhat contradictory statements of balance really capture my own desires as a parent and the desires I hear from other parents as well.





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