There's a group of freshmen boys that I try to check in with everyday. They all sit together for lunch at the same bench. They're sweet, funny, and curious. They sort of remind me of me as a freshman, though that's not why I check in with them. They're on the right path, and I guess me checking in daily is my way of ensuring that they stay on that path. We talk about all kinds of things, but the other day I walked over and one of them hit me with this:
I guess I should have inquired more, because for all I know he had a piece of overcooked meat the night before and was forever tainted. But I had a feeling what he meant, so I immediately engaged. "Define sucks." The others saw me jumping into the ring and gathered around to watch. Slowly I took the youngster's argument from, "Kobe sucks," to something more substantial, "Look at his shooting percentage, it's terrible." Okay then, "Define terrible."
We went back and forth for a while, with me not defending Kobe so much as I was working to get the young debater to base his arguments on facts and even validated opinion versus simple hyperbole. And he was PASSIONATE. I mean, we could have gone on for days. He got into why he believes LeBron is better than Kobe (I didn't let on that I actually agree) and that Jordan couldn't stop LeBron (I agreed here, pointing out that Jordan is 50 and definitely couldn't stop LeBron). I was a freshman in high school almost 25 years ago and I was having the same argument with my friends about Magic and Jordan. I was PASSIONATE! However, I was quite uninterested in school. Not that these boys are uninterested in school. Most of them are far better students than I was. But I don't think they're as passionate about school as they (or at least this one in particular) are about debating LeBron versus Kobe. Can we change that?
Not if we don't give them the chance to have their own ideas. Not if we don't allow them to experience the curriculum on their terms. Not if we talk at them instead of to them. Or even better we could talk very little at all and ask them questions that would get them doing the talking. Or even better we could teach them to ask the questions so that they'd have a genuine desire to go find the answers.
I came upon this website a while back and enjoyed one entry without looking around much more. Then I came upon it again recently and have been unable to pull myself away. What if school was more like this? What if we allowed kids to ask 'what if' and then dove in headfirst trying to figure out the answer? What if for homework we asked every kid to tweet a 'what if' question and then chose one and it became the focus for the week? How cool would that be?