Education and the Great Resignation

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“It is possible to be the person who genuinely wants to see change while also being the person whose actions keep things the way they are.” ~America Ferrera

If you follow headlines or current events, you’ve likely heard about the Great Resignation. This term describes the ongoing employment trend of employees voluntarily resigning. This trend applies not only to the workforce but to other groups. There is a growing number of people leaving religion behind, for example. Likewise, there continues to be significant *growth among students leaving traditional educational systems. 

So why are people leaving current systems? It is impossible to assign one answer. The factors and motivations attributed to these trends of change are wide, varied, and complex. For instance, those leaving current educational systems may be doing so because their child has special needs and the size of the classroom can’t accommodate a child with a learning gap, is neuro-diverse, and or gifted. Perhaps the curriculum being taught doesn’t align with a family’s values. Maybe a child is being bullied or otherwise exposed to things that a parent doesn’t have control over in a system that may be overwhelmed. 


The point here - there is no one clear answer.


Instead of making a sweeping generalization to the motivation and psychology behind specific answers as to why folks are seeking alternative paths, let’s explore the system instead (in this case, education), which may offer some insight. And before we do so, might I suggest that rather than using the word resignation, we use the word reconsideration to define the representation of the collective departure from systems being witnessed. So to start, l want to pose a question. As a parent or caring adult, what do you most hope for children about what they gain from their learning experience? Hang on to your answer. Now let’s first take a look at the current educational structure and a bit of its history. 

The current educational system is about 200 years old. It was part of the impact and outcome of the industrial revolution. Before that, formal education was largely for the affluent. With the shift from an agrarian culture to industrialization, there arose a need for a different type of labor pool, one that was conforming and literate. The education provided by the state was the answer. It was ordered, standardized, efficient, and general. It served a need.

That structure, born 200 years ago, is the same system today. Why does that matter? Are our needs as a society, workforce, and culture also the same? The question may seem absurd because the answer is obvious, but it begs being asked since the approach to education is largely unchanged. We’re at a point in history where there are ongoing skill shortages. It will likely continue for various reasons, but the need for adaptable people who can quickly upskill will be paramount. Likewise, there is a premium for innovative thinkers, creative minds, complex problem-solvers, collaborative-minded and empowered individuals, and those willing to take risks and figure it out. Why these characteristics and traits?

In Think Again by Adam Grant, Adam states, “Achieving excellence in school often requires mastering old ways of thinking. Building an influential career demands new ways of thinking. In a classic study of highly accomplished architects, the most creative ones graduated with a B average. Their straight-A counterparts were so determined to be right that they often failed to take the risk of thinking orthodoxy.”  This reflects on a system that rewards “right” vs. risk, which teaches one what to think vs. how to learn.

So some of the impacts and implications amount to whether or not we have a future of empowered thinkers and capable learners. 

Think back to your answer to the question, “As a parent or caring adult, what do you most hope for children in terms of what is gained from their learning experience? ( I suspect that your answer to this may touch on what we’ve identified above - the desire to have them equipped and prepared for the world as part of the workforce. But I also suspect you have more than you hope for in this - that they are confident, kind, curious, and passionate.

Whatever the reason for evaluating your child's current situation - developmental, professional, long-game, emotional - one can see why some parents/students are taking a more critical look at traditional mechanisms to determine if they are being well-served. But even if you’ve arrived at a point where you recognize that the current situation or system isn’t working for you, your child, or your family, that doesn’t always mean thinking about it translates to actionable change.

A Prenda student with his Prenda Guide

For those that feel a need for change but do nothing, what’s happening?

We tend to gravitate toward certainty or things we know, even when the known may not be in our best interest. The ease of a known world is in opposition for us to uncertainty. What does this have to do with anything?

A different outcome requires change, and change can mean facing an unknown. That can create some genuine fear. Fear of what exactly? It could look like a lot of different things. For example:

· We are social creatures: What if my friends/community don’t understand my decision?

· I want to do what’s best for my child: There are many things to consider; how do I know I’m making the right decision?

· Cognitive dissonance: most people would rather dismiss, deny or downplay uncomfortable information rather than reshape their view to accommodate it.

As mentioned early on, a growing number of people have or are shifting away from systems they feel no longer serve them. If you are reconsidering the old and exploring new frontiers, how can you create a path forward for yourself? It may sound cliché, but one step at a time is how change begins. Here are two ideas:

· Commit one action you can take. For example, maybe it’s talking to someone who has pursued an alternative to current systems, maybe its attending an event or information gathering session to learn more about what’s available

· Review your values, what’s most important to you – consider that initial question I asked about the greatest hope for your child – and regularly remind yourself of your why.

 “Change will come when we dare to question our fundamental values and beliefs and then see to it that our actions lead to our best intentions.” America Ferrera.

We’d love for you to check out Prenda and the way we do education. You can find out more at Let’s empower learners together!