School and Running

School always seems like it misses the mark to me. We’ve built a huge infrastructure to educate children and it doesn’t do what we need it to do. But, this system does do what it’s designed to do. The problem is simply that the design and the structure have chosen the wrong target and severely limited their capabilities in the process.

I’ll present this idea by using a metaphor. Imagine that instead of educating children, schools were charged with training children to run. The job of school is to get everyone to run. Well there are a lot of students with a lot of abilities and a lot of goals. Some students are great at sprinting and some are great at running long distances. Some can barely walk and some even hate to run. But the job of this school is to teach running. It’s impractical to teach all students how to run all ways so the school decides to focus on 5 k running. That’s a nice distance somewhere in the middle of everything and should get everyone to run.

Now somewhere along the way someone asks why kids even need to run but that question is dismissed as crazy talk. The school goes on to focus all of their efforts on training students to run a 5k. Everything that is done is focused on the best ways to run a 5k and that’s the entire focus. All students run everyday to run that race. The school is even so focused on the 5k that they creat a huge 5k race at the end of the year to see how each student performs. The student’s times are recorded and reported.

The fact that some students hate to run and some want to run marathons and some want to run up a mountain instead of on flat ground are all of little concern to the school. The focus becomes the 5k time instead of the people running the race. And we haven’t even talked about the ways that nutrition and motivation and mental preparation relate to being a good runner. After all, there’s not enough time for everything when you’re trying to teach hundreds of kids to run a race.

I hope you get my point here. Our system is off the mark. It’s so far off the mark that most of the time we aren’t even having the right conversations about what needs to be changed.

I do wish that our system would allow for all students to choose their race and become great at running it. But I’m afraid that we will continue to focus only on that 5k and continue to wonder why everyone isn’t great at it.

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