Does education really want student voice? Spoiler alert: The answer is no — from by Jason Vest


If you’re as lucky as I am to be in a state like Virginia positioning itself to transform schools, you probably hear these phrases a lot: “innovation,” “learner-centered,” and “student voice.” We use these to convey the importance of transforming pedagogy and letting students have more autonomy in their education. You won’t find a teacher on the planet that doesn’t genuinely want their students to be self-advocates, know how to manage their time and themselves better, or have richer learning opportunities. But at times there is a huge discrepancy in what we say we want our kids to do and be and what our system actually supports. My most successful teaching experience, one that earned national recognition by The Aurora Institute, happened during our school’s study hall period. There’s no way I could have just decided to scrap my main Civics class and buck the existing curriculum and state standards to teach a class on design thinking and entrepreneurship – even if the students and their families wanted me to.

Another phrase we always say is “we want students to be college and career ready.” In reality though, only if that means they do so in a way that is non-threatening to our existing power structures.

Let me be clear: As it currently stands, we have more policies, systems, and structures currently in place that hinder students than those that help them. Anyone that believes otherwise should talk to any of my students.