Education is KEY, but it is not ONE key

Is education the key to success? To unlock the potential in each student, is education the key? Does education open doors to opportunity? Does education open prison doors that lock people in cells of hopelessness? Keys can get old, overused, broken, or go missing. And keys are very specific. What if a key isn’t working? What if a lock is changed? As many go through life, they may keep adding deadbolts to their doors, to keep out pain, to deal with stress, to heal from trauma and insecure attachments with primary adult figures. Sometimes the lock is a chain, that can only be unlocked by an insider. And society seems to add many combination locks with combinations shared only with those of particular privilege.

I would submit that education is key (as an adjective meaning “paramount; of crucial importance”), but it is not ONE key. Perhaps education includes a vast collection of keys, like those held by the all-important school janitor who can unlock any door… if only he uses the right key. Perhaps too many educators have been trying with all of their power and influence to use a particular key on all their students, and when the key doesn’t fit, or doesn’t turn, and the child’s potential is not unlocked, those educators attribute the failure to the child, to the child’s failed support system, to the other challenges the child faces. Perhaps within the collection of keys, there is one with just the right grooves to open the student up to the knowledge and wonders of the world – and to open the world up to the student. And I believe in many cases, the only way to open certain locks is to get on the inside, and slide open the chain bolt that has locked out the world, while ensuring safety on the other side of the door. Not easy. No wonder education is failing too many of our students, particularly those most at-risk.

There must be a reason that some educators are effective with students who failed to thrive or succeed with other teachers. Let’s learn from these educators. Let’s create the keys, and when possible, let’s share and copy those keys that work in the hearts of young students who have so many treasures locked within them that could enrich our classrooms, and that could enrich the world. Even better, let’s learn together how to get on the inside with our students, enter into their situations, and help them to unlock the doors that lead to opportunity, fulfillment, achievement and success.

Along this line, I refer to a speech/spoken word performance by Donovan Livingston, given at the Convocation exercises of Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2016. Enjoy!

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin,Is a great equalizer of the conditions of men.” – Horace Mann, 1848.At the time of his remarks I couldn’t read — couldn’t write.Any attempt to do so, punishable by death.For generations we have known of knowledge’s infinite power.Yet somehow,…