My Interview with Young People: What Listening to our Youth Can Teach Us About Education
posted on April 27, 2017 by Tony Monfiletto
“Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.” ― John Dewey, Philosopher, Education Reformer.
For those of you who are worried about the future of our city, you can breathe a little easier.
I recently had the chance to sit down with a group of ambitious young people who had just graduated from college. As a group who are well on their way to creating a more prosperous and healthy community, they had some exciting insights on how well education had equipped them for the real world. With school still fresh in their minds, they were now taking the first steps in their careers and they had a lot to say about how their schools did – and did not – prepare them for the future.
The exhibitions have become rite of passage where students prove to community leaders and elders that they are ready for adulthood and the demands of college and work.
As Ian Esquibel, Executive Director, New Mexico Learning Alliance, and I sat down with group, we learned that often the most enduring lessons from school came from clubs or after school activities.
They were passionate about the things they learned from marching band, yearbook, speech and debate and cheerleading. They talked about developing a work ethic, selling yourself, time management, multi-tasking, and personal responsibility. While they also talked about learning how to write and understand other civilizations from their classes, the dominant sentiment was that the skills that they rely on for future success came from outside of the classroom. It was these hands-on lessons from clubs and activities that endured.
[Young people’s] experiences could be the blueprint for renewal, if we are willing to listen.
Their recommendations parallel the current work of the Leadership High Schools and their partners in the New Metrics initiative where students serve a client who helps create a project designed to benefit the community. Our young people focus on Architecture, Construction and Engineering at ACE Leadership, the health of the South Valley at Health Leadership, Social Justice at South Valley Academy and Amy Biehl High School. These projects go a step further than just demonstrating skills and knowledge. The exhibitions have become rite of passage where students prove to community leaders and elders that they are ready for adulthood and the demands of college and work.
Engaged young people like those we interviewed are a gold mine for education reformers. Most of them were products of our public schools and they are well on their way to helping make our city more prosperous and healthy. For someone who has spent a great deal of energy working to make their insights a reality, they reinforced Dewey’s belief that the best education for the future is through the experience that you have now. Their experiences could be the blueprint for renewal, if we are willing to listen.