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Paperwork as Education

I want you to think about paperwork. It doesn’t matter what type of paperwork. We could call it a handout, a worksheet, an insurance claim, a job application, or that stack of forms that you have to fill out while you wait in the lobby of a dentist’s office. 

On a scale of 1-10, assign yourself a number based on your enjoyment of completing paperwork. 

Now imagine if paperwork was your job. It's all you did. Imagine you had six different bosses throughout your day, and each one gave you a new set of paperwork to complete. Oh, and you’re not allowed to leave your seat until it's done. When you do complete it, especially if you complete it early, your boss is there with another page for you to complete. On and on it goes. 

This reality is awfully close to the experience that millions of teens have every day across the United States. They arrive at school (usually at an eye-wateringly early time of day), sit in a seat, and complete paperwork. Sure, they might get the chance to daydream during a lecture or two throughout the day, and they might even get to work with some of their peers on filling out the paperwork. But at the end of class, your paperwork needs filing, the assignment is due. 

I think it is an abomination that we subject our youth, who as teenagers are in many ways in their prime, to this daily grind of paper-pushing. Our young people should have more chances to use their bodies than an hour of PE and the chance of after-school sports. They should have woven throughout their day opportunities to work with physical materials and chances to create things that exist in the real, material world. They should be able to engage in meaningful discussions about real issues, and real ideas, that are based on real projects. They should be tasked with solving real-life problems that arise when they create and work alongside others. 

School can be this. School must be this. While academics and book work certainly have their place, they should not make up the near-entirety of our young people’s education. We should be getting our learners excited about entering the world and working on solving its myriad of issues. Our learners should be excited to build, create, and innovate, and they should be well versed at problem-solving by the time they enter adulthood. 

Looking at how they spend most of their time in school, however, one cannot blame them for being disengaged, disruptive, and depressed. I think I would be too if I was stuck doing paperwork all day.

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