There is Not Only One Road to Success

Katie Martin shared this article on Facebook, with the title, “Student petition says too much pressure to succeed at Naperville North“.  Interested in the title, I read the first paragraph, which stated the following:

A student petition criticizing Naperville North High School for putting too much pressure on students to succeed academically quickly gained attention Thursday, and District 203 officials said they are reviewing the issue.

Scared of a culture that tends to comment based on headlines, not on articles, I was terrified that this could turn into an “entitled youth” bashing barrage (which if you read the comments from many, is what happened).  The title signifies something different than what the article is saying. The students are not against success, just success in the (one) way that is determined by others. As I have stated before, we have taken the most human profession in the world, and have reduced it to letters and numbers.  There is so much more to our kids than any score.

Here is a snippet from the article:

“At Naperville North there is one path to success,” the petition said. “This path is made clear from the day high school anticipation begins, and is reiterated until graduation. From the age of 13 every prospective Naperville North student understands that this path makes no exceptions, and those who wander off or fall behind are left for failure. Everyone here understands that there is no worse fate than failure.”

The petition calls on administrators to, “Start defining success as any path that leads to a happy and healthy life. Start teaching us to make our own paths, and start guiding us along the way.”

I do not know enough about this school district nor would I criticise them; there is always more to a story than any article presents.  Being an administrator for several years, I get it. That being said, kudos to the students for sharing their voices.  This is not about being soft on the students; personally, I expect anyone who is working toward success to put in the time and effort. I love the Simon Sinek quote,  “‘Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress: Working hard for something we love is called passion.” This is not about having low expectations; it is ensuring that the students have a voice in those expectations in the first place.

It is great that the district is listening to what the students are saying (as stated in the article). We often encourage “student voice”, but do we act on it?  If you ask me for my thoughts on a topic, and then disregard or ignore what I say, you have wasted my time.  I am sure any group of students would agree.  We need to remember who education serves; the students.

Here are a few thoughts on the article:

  1. I am frustrated with the title of this article. Is the title appropriate to the article?  Many people are quick to criticise that schools are not preparing students for the needs of the world, but then will also start arguments about why we aren’t teaching enough cursive in schools.  There are way too many awesome stories in education of schools doing great things for students in forward thinking ways. I know that we can share our own story, but I do wish that this was shared in traditional media.  The majority of the community without children in school could care less about your school’s twitter feed or website, but they do care what is said in and on the news.
  2. School should open doors for students, and not just the ones we (the adults) want them to go through.  I have been thinking about why this is more now than ever.  Perhaps it is because our youth are seeing people their same age doing amazing things, either because of or in spite of school. This is why I tell people to quit saying, “We are developing the leaders of tomorrow”; we subtly say to our students that they can’t make a difference until they are out of school.  This is a fallacy that we need to move on.
  3. Success means different things to different people, but take note of this statement made by the student petition; “Start defining success as any path that leads to a happy and healthy life. Start teaching us to make our own paths, and start guiding us along the way.”  Yup.  I don’t know what else to say. It is just perfect, and even more perfect that it comes from the voice of students.

I stated this in a recent post:

Grades are not an indicator of intelligence; they are an indicator of ability in certain areas, that someone else deems important.

If you look hard enough, you can easily find a list of people who were extremely successful without going to college or university. You can also find a list of people who went to the university who are also very successful.  It is not disregarding one or the other, but it is to acknowledge that there is more than one path.  Schools, as well as politicians, need to recognise this not only for the sake of our students but for their benefit.

World IntellectualProperty Day


Source: George Couros