What matters today…is not how much our students know, but what they can do with what they know. – Tony Wagner
There is a general misconception about education, from the outside looking in, that the main goal is to provide students with the most information possible in order to prepare them for what is on the other side. This quote from Tony Wagner embodies the alternative view of education that many people do not get to see. To think of schooling and curriculum as only the basic information that is transferred within a predetermined period of time is an entirely backwards view that looks to fit education into a neat, tiny little box that allows you to close the door at the end. It follows the idea that our students are empty vessels that need to be filled, often to the point of overflowing. However, you can’t really do anything with it.
As Wagner highlights with this statement, knowledge is useless to a student unless they are able to take that knowledge and do something meaningful with it. If we take Wagner’s ideas and apply them to education, it opens up a whole new world of learning. It provides a basis for things like interactive learning and hands on knowledge. It also provides more opportunity for the students who perhaps are not likely to learn from books. It makes it possible to focus less on quantity of information and more on quality. It puts students first by looking past the “right here, right now” and into how practical it can become in their lives.
In terms of my own philosophical understanding of curriculum, school, and the purpose of education, I strongly agree with the view that Wagner has presented. I have experienced the alternative where students are forced to learning copious amounts of information with a single goal of being able to answer the questions right in the end and moving on to the next thing. I believe in the power of education and knowledge to generate change. If we must continue using the “students as an empty vessel” idea, we can modify it to fit into a new view such as Wagner’s. You can do more with a half-full vessel than you can with a full one.