I recently chatted with someone who shared a few of their concerns about schools, technology, life after school, as well as the worry that things like “no zeros” would not prepare youth for the “real world”.  This person was younger than me and I valued and appreciated the perspective and respectfully responded with mine.  I continued to think about this conversation for some time.  At first I thought:  I don’t want school to prepare my kids for the “real world”, I want schools to help them see what the real world “could be”.  There are often debates and discussions amongst educators about the “real world” references to school and learning.

Recently I have seen a number of tweets on Twitter regarding “real world” references that challenged my thinking further.  No sooner had I clarified my own thoughts, David Wees (@davidwees) tweeted a quote, “It is better to understand the way the world really is rather than how we would like it to be.” (Michael Shermer) Wow, yes, there is a lot to understand!

Robert Hunking ( @yesknowno) also shared a poster with a John Holt quote, “What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world”.  He asked for thoughts and I replied with, “Depends on what one means by “real world”…

I was also following the tweets here and there from the WGSI Summit and #learning2030.  Erin Millar (@erinmillar) tweeted this comment from the discussions,  “They need to feel like they are learning about real world problems.” (Cintra, @wgsisummit )

Nathan Hall also just wrote a post sharing his concerns about special awards, “best” badges, marks, etc., and the impact on teachers and students.  He also referred to the “real world” question,

Everyone deserves a pat on the back for the good work that they do. The problem is the competition. Pitting one person against another for the sake of an award seems so wrong……. I also feel like it gives our students the wrong impression. I know, I know. Welcome to the real world. It’s dog eat dog out there so you need to fight for what’s yours. I don’t know. I’m of the mentality that we train our students to strive for something different, something better. Don’t buy into the idea that we need to learn how to survive in the world as it is, fight for something better. Where would be without those who have fought for change in a world where change is often frowned upon?

So what are we really trying to get at with these concerns about “real world” connections and learning.  It can be difficult to see a clear path.  Where has schooling missed the mark?  Is there a particular part of K-12 education that has missed the mark more?  How do we find a good balance of honouring the real world that students are in, as well as preparing them for life ahead?  Is there some point that learning about and solving real world problems would be a burden and detriment to learning? How would we decide or know?  Just tossing out my muddled thinking right now…