It’s taken a bit, but it’s slowly starting to occur to those with the power to change education that we’re shaping children for holes that they may never need to fit into. Progress, go figure!
But what seems to be obvious only to extracurricular groups (labeled “informal”, and therefore considered somehow inferior to the formal education that spends as much time teaching strategies for gaming standardized tests as it does the concepts children are actually sent to school to learn) is that young people are best able to find and develop the skills that interest them, and that will eventually shape their adult lives, when they can explore topics interesting to them as quickly as they are able to assimilate that information.
Allowing young people to pursue and develop topics and skills that catch and hold their attention has another benefit: It allows for one group of students to develop a range of diverse experiences. Those individual experiences then form the filter through which they each see things, allowing them to bring ideas and observations to collaborations and critiques that they might otherwise have never been able to share. Even better, having someone look at their own projects through that different filter can often give those projects a new life as they get to see it from that different perspective.
Shunning the cookie-cutter education for one that allows young people to gain different experiences will benefit us in the long run, encouraging stronger collaboration and critiques, producing truly innovative projects. It also creates authentic opportunities for young people to feel their voice is heard and that their opinions matter, helping to develop healthier self-images.