Charles Kouns


How Can We Fix Education? Listen to Young People

Youth have an answer for us—not to the "why," but to the "how"—if we all would just listen.

Daily news stories and countless blog posts detail the state of learning, education, and schools in America. It is a fervent conversation, but it's one led by adults: policymakers, school board members, school administrators, teachers, and parents. Despite the best intentions of adults, there is a critical aspect of transforming education that's clearly missing. Young people are not being invited to participate or to be a part of the decision-making process. And, as this debate about changing education goes on feverishly across the country, an entirely different dialogue is occurring among young people.

In the last month, two youth voices have been center stage—Jeff Bliss, a student from Texas, and nine-year-old Asean Johnson a student from Chicago. Both students are examples of how young people nationwide are frustrated with adults' inaction and are taking matters into their own hands. Certainly, when it comes to education, young people know what they're talking about. They spend more than 50 percent of their waking hours either attending classes or doing homework. Yet in schools across the country, despite a national average dropout rate of 25 percent—up to 42 percent in some communities—and low classroom engagement rates of 33 percent, students are not being asked why? Why are you choosing to leave? Why are you disengaged? Why are you protesting? Why doesn't the system work for you any longer?

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