Experience Can Save Education

Experiences have been in the forefront of my mind lately. I am working to roll out the Startup Showcase student startup event at Illinois State University. I just attended and participated in the #BOOM event in Columbia, Missouri that binds education and economic development through entrepreneurship.

entrepreneurship experienceI have been helping ISU alum Obi Agbo plan the Ignition Weekend student startup immersion event at Illinois State University. These experiences make sense in the entrepreneur role in my life; entrepreneurship only happens by doing. After a father-son weekend with my son, I was reminded that education needs to be about experiences as well.

The only thing I remember from my early schooling is field trips. I don’t remember the classrooms, the playgrounds, the teachers, the material. I don’t remember anything about the school. But I can remember some of the sights, sounds, smells, and knowledge from field trips. I remember the experiences.

We celebrate the experiences. Milestones such as weddings, births, deaths. We share experiences. Concerts, sporting events, roadtrips, hobbies. We remember experiences; I’d wager that anytime you start the sentence “Do you remember . . .?” it has to do with an experience.

Where Are the Experiences?

My son is in 2nd grade, and he has yet to take a field trip. At the beginning of the year, I offered his teacher to coordinate and pay for a field trip anywhere, anytime for his entire class. That offer happened in early September. It’s now late February and nothing on the books!  I thought perhaps I wasn’t getting anywhere due to perceptions of favoritism if one class got a field trip and others didn’t. So I offered the principal of his school to coordinate and pay for a field trip for the entire 2nd grade. I was told they couldn’t do that because it would cut into too much of the reading and writing time in the Common Core curriculum. Seriously? Seriously?!? 

After cooling off, I returned to offer to bring an experience to the students. I offered to bring an experience to my son’s class, then to the entire 2nd grade, then to the entire school. No, no, no. I don’t understand how these “educators” don’t understand the power of experience and want to bring that power to the children they’re charged with educating. I don’t understand how they don’t remember the sheer joy and wonder of a field trip. Shame on them if they do understand the power and remember the joy and actively decide to not offer their students the same power and joy.

The Experience That Is Left

So I am left to create experiences for my son. I’m happy to do it (although I’m not nearly as diligent or imaginative as I should be – I readily acknowledge my hypocrisy here!) But I growl internally because I shouldn’t have to make up for lost time – he should be having experiences during his school day. The saddest part of this is that he cannot share any experiences with his friends. He cannot digest any experiences with the classmates he’s learning with. He cannot see school as a source of the wonder and joy experiences hold. I am saddened, for my son, for all children who can’t experience learning beyond the walls of schools, and for a system that has turned its back on the power and wonder of experience.


2 thoughts on “Experience Can Save Education

  1. Homeschool your son.

    You will regret it if you sacrifice these precious years of your son’s development. Both of you will look back and celebrate the joy of sacrificing whatever is necessary to enrich his life experience. Choosing not to will be disappointing because you allowed the low standards of others to deprive your family of making a better choice. Institutions don’t always get “it” right.

    In the meantime, you can invite the parents of his classmates to join you in creating an “extracurricular” experience.”

    This advice proved accurate for us. Our children have added international studies, foreign languages and a life long love of learning from their experiences. These experiences have shaped their character, sense of self-worth and sense of community. They have also graduated from an Ivy League college and an international university. As a parent, what makes me smile the most is how a continuous wide variety of experiences have made them compassionate people engaged with all levels of a global society. They may not remember their Second Grade teacher and Principal, but they will remember their Dad and lessons of your leadership.

    1. Great advice. We try to balance so he has some experiences at school but we provide the valuable learning experiences at home. And I am working with the schools to effectuate change (which I’m already seeing in our community thankfully). Homeschooling isn’t an option at this point but we try to bring that philosophy to all our time with him, and then I work to disrupt the system as well. Unfortunate that there isn’t a good in-between. It’s a zero-sum game and thst sucks for our kids.

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