In my perfect world, schools are based on the diagram above. The learner is at the center of every decision made in the school. This implies there is no room for decisions centered on “adult convenience”. The school is systemically built to provide the optimal learning experience for every learner. Period.As I look around at what is occurring in society, I see that learner-centered leaders will increasingly deal with “parent’s rights.” “Parent’s rights” is a topic that certain politicians have sunk their teeth into because they view it as politically advantageous for their careers. Now, I am not too sure what they mean by “parent’s rights,” but it seems that when questions of social-emotional learning, “critical race theory”, and curriculum “transparency” are mentioned they fall under the umbrella of “parent’s rights.”Those three topics are hot-button political issues. I am not going to debate the merits or drawbacks of these ideas…I refuse to be brought into the culture wars of America. However, school leaders are going to have to talk about these issues because they are squarely in the 2022 culture wars.How we discuss these topics will, to a large extent, determine how effectively we can educate all of our children. I know it is not wise to debate these issues with people…especially since most people have made up their minds where they land on the subject and facts will not deter them from their opinion. I am suggesting that you approach the discussion with a learner-centered framework. Here is mine.The center of the ecosystem is the learner.Hold on, I am afraid that the word “learner” is still too abstract.Let me try again. In the center of the ecosystem is a human being…a human. We can’t forget this little fact. Sitting there in the middle of all of our work in schools is a human being with a heart, a brain, and a soul. No, they are not perfect, but that is what makes them human. I am disheartened that the humans that we want to be at the center of all we do in schools are used as representations of something that is going on in the larger society. Humans do not represent anything else except being human!In the case of our learners, these humans represent nothing more than their own unique humanness.Learners do not represent numbers on a standardized test.Learners do not represent a “hillbilly” because they live in Appalachia.Learners do not represent an entire minority group if they are an ethnic or racial minority.Learners do not represent a pawn in any culture war battle.Learners are humans.Treat them with kindnessTreat them with compassion.Just be nice!
August 24, 2023
July 10, 2023
About Tom Butler, Ph.D.
I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.View all posts by Tom Butler, Ph.D. →