Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod, and others are discussing how to include student voices at NECC. While I admire Karl immensely, I find the scope of the idea inadequately ambitious. NECC means less (next to nothing, I would guess) to students compared to their daily school experience, and their participation in the larger world generally. They should be participating in our edublogger conversations on an equal footing, as equal partners.
But they’re not. I raised the issue months ago and added some student bloggers (and an “Individual Student Bloggers” category) to the Support Classroom Blogging wiki, but nobody has followed suit. Why? Fear of parents? Concern for job security? Valid enough. But this article from Psychology Today about psychologist Robert Epstein‘s thesis, in his book The Case Against Adolescence, points to more: We don’t challenge arbitrary laws that define our youth in counter-productive ways. We confuse man-made (and depressingly American, in this case) laws as “natural truths.” The “truth” in question? That teens – high schoolers, particularly – are “not adults.” And the consequent “infantilization” we inflict upon them as educators and parents.
From the article:
We have completely isolated young people from adults and created a peer culture. We stick them in school and keep them from working in any meaningful way, and if they do something wrong we put them in a pen with other “children.” In most nonindustrialized societies, young people are integrated into adult society as soon as they are capable, and there is no sign of teen turmoil. Many cultures do not even have a term for adolescence. But we not only created this stage of life: We declared it inevitable. In 1904, American psychologist G. Stanley Hall said it was programmed by evolution. He was wrong.
The edublogosphere is as guilty of this as the rest of the education world, generally. “Elevate student bloggers by giving them equal footing in the adult echo-chamber? It’s illegal. Privacy issues. Case closed.”
I don’t think so. Something as simple as a parent permission letter/waiver, maybe coupled with teacher moderation of student posts (if we must retain control and continue the infantilization of our teens), could do the trick. Forward-thinking parents would buy in, I suspect.
Giving them a “voice” at NECC is a token gesture, at best, when the real issue is that we’ve rolled over in the face of laws that silence those voices as valid participants in authentic discourse.
Radical? Yes. But so was every commonplace “truth” we hold now – human flight, moon landings, public education, womens’ suffrage – when it was a new idea.
We need to broaden this discussion about teen voices. Again, traditional “school-y” solutions like a simple parent waiver consenting to student blogging among the adult world might make this “radically sane” idea easy enough to take hold.
Otherwise, we’re stuck reading each other and muffling our young. That’s not my idea of ideal educational practice.
In a conversation on Scott Schwister’s blog, Higher Edison, I ask why it is that churches and church youth group leaders have the right (and take full advantage of it) to lead youth groups with so much more freedom, authenticity, relevance, and effectiveness, than schools and teachers. Why are educators so afraid to be true community leaders beyond the schoolhouse and classroom? It shouldn’t be that way.
I’d love to hear some of your ideas on this. How can we make the edublogosphere itself – not merely NECC – more student-centered? What am I missing?