Meeting the challenge of having one group of humans routinely treat another group as less-than-human simply because of their age is a vexing one. However, before we can meet that challenge we should envision what the answer is to the question we’re trying to solve.
Here is my vision of students as fully human:
Seen and treated with the rights, responsibilities, and capabilities of a human, all young people are routinely and meaningfully involved throughout the entire education system, with more than their voice as a placeholder and no less than their sustained lifelong engagement in learning as the outcome.
Walking into an average school, the physical appearance, daily operation, and every outcome will be wholly transformed by engaging students as fully human. Rather than stuffy hallways packed with hyper-frenetic students seeking momentary relief between classes, children and youth of all ages will be welcome to come and go at will throughout environments designed by their minds, too.
Recognized as self-driven learners from their earliest years, all students everywhere will be in charge of their own learning, and because of that, every single student will be completely motivated and surely empowered to initiate, drive, fulfill, and complete education to their own satisfaction.
Attendance in schools won’t be limited by age, either. Rather, students will be able to select the learning environment that best suits their desires. Adult learners will co-mingle with young learners as both learn to value the other in new ways.
The hearts and minds of adults will continue to expand as well. Our ability to more effectively engage young people in equitable ways will become invaluable as social change moves more rapidly. People who currently practice and teach the practices of student engagement and voice will be mainstreamed in professional development across all fields of industry, economy, governance, education, human services, and beyond. The frameworks of Meaningful Student Involvement
will be seen as essential components for successful learning far beyond schools, as the role of the learner becomes ubiquitous throughout all sectors of society.
When students are engaged as fully human, educational management will be transformed as well, and necessarily so. Given the ability to vote from birth, the voices of students will suddenly be valued by politicians in a new way. Those who did ran early programs to engage youth voice will be awarded with immediate youth support, while others will be required to earn the trust of students. School board members, state, territorial, and federal parliament members, mayors, all elected positions will suddenly be held directly accountable to students themselves. This will lead to a kind of authority that completely transforms educational management in a variety of ways. Pushing for the type of participatory engagement they routinely experience on the Internet today, children and youth will insist upon active democratic processes that reflect their best interests. School bureaucracies will be forced to reinvent their activities to suit the expectations of the elected representatives that control their budgets, who in turn will be voted in by young people.
The outcomes of these systems will be as radical as their transformations. Academic achievement will no longer be the measure by which school performance is metered. Rather, students will come to understand that personal engagement throughout their own lives and within the larger world they’re members of is more important. Schools will devise systems for measuring self-sustainability, personal growth, and social well-being. Their actions will be valued throughout the larger society, as the health of democracies suddenly spikes upon these transformative measures. Ultimately, economic growth, civic engagement, social contributions, cultural inheritances, and peace and nonviolence will be seen as the outcomes of the experience of schooling.
These are some of the outcomes of seeing, treating, and experiencing students as fully human. The next question is how we get there from here.