A few years ago I attended a symposium on small independent schools. There were a number of points from the symposium that are worth sharing. The panel of speakers at this symposium included the CEO of a local corporation and the director of admissions for Muhlenberg College.
The perspectives of the panel members and the keynote speaker on the needs for education in the future and what they are seeing in young people today were interesting. They noted that 38% of college students flunk or drop out. They said that when we educate to the test, we are essentially educating robots to be good at tests, but we don’t educate students for life. One of the things they focused on was the inability of young people to work with other people. They noted that the single biggest reason people get fired from their jobs is because they can’t get along with their colleagues.
They stressed the need for education that helps students develop self-awareness, the ability to be flexible and to work with others, and a sense for language. In order to be successful in our world students need to be able to frame and express ideas. They said that as employers they are looking for young people who are able to grow, learn, and develop. They observed that as a society we are educating young people to be paper pushers, but not craftsman or entrepreneurs. We are not educating students to make things. They see that the ability to make something as well as to administrate are skills critical to success in the world today.
A number of times they touched on how young people today have a sense of entitlement, equating effort with success (I worked hard on this, why is it not an “A”?). They expect to be promoted quickly in their jobs. A disconnect exists between where they are and what they have to do to get to where they want to be. They are not equipped to deal with failure. The speakers felt this was caused in part by well meaning parents who limit their children’s autonomy and attempt to clear the way for their children so that they are always successful and never experience set backs or failure. They spoke of how parents today will even intervene in their children’s education at the college or university level, complaining to professors or administrators about grades their children are given.
Of course, my reaction to much of what they were saying was, “I wish they knew about Waldorf Education!” Education for life is central to the Waldorf pedagogical philosophy. Waldorf education is an education that provides students with the opportunities on a daily basis to develop the capacities of self-awareness, the ability to collaborate with others, an intrinsic love of learning that is not grade or test score driven, skill with written and spoken expression, and the experience and satisfaction of making something with one’s hands. It is also an education that focuses on the development of the will, or the ability to apply oneself and follow through on projects. This is accomplished through a project-based approach to academics where students often work on projects related to the topic and make their own books as a record of what they have learned, and a fine and practical arts program and gardening program where students experience first hand the necessity of perseverance, practice, and follow-through.