Ask Why – Ages

Everyday people work and interact with people of all ages. Human beings were never designed to exist or learn in single-age communities. Learning with and from others of different ages is how we’re wired. And for the majority of us, school was the only place where we interacted exclusively with people our exact same age.

So why is K-12 is the only place in our lives where we’re divided up by age? Alternative learning environments have shown that students grouped by ability were 2.5 times more likely to test high in reading, writing and math. Is our current system causing problems for young people?

Schools use age-based grade levels because of historical legacy. In the mid-1800s (before we knew a whole lot about human development, learning, and the brain), European thinkers assumed that separating children by age would be the most efficient way to transfer “age-appropriate” knowledge. And the system they built has perpetuated itself since, despite growing evidence that age alone tells us very little about what any given child can do.

What are the implications of understanding that human beings were never designed to exist or learn in single-age communities? Let’s explore the root of the decision to group students by age and take a look at schools that have already remodeled their policies and practices to match the wisdom and need of the present day.

Ask Why: Ages is the third in a four-part series, co-produced by ATTN and 180 Studio, that is designed to invite us to reflect on the assumptions we make about the thing we call “school.” When we pause to ask why, we can learn from students and educators who are advancing new and different visions.

Of course, it is possible to improve our public school systems. The stories in this series highlight some places where this work is already underway. But that work requires us to examine our assumptions about school. In this first installment, we invite you to “Ask Why” with us, and to consider some of the ways in which schools and policies could be remodeled to match the wisdom and need of the modern era. We hope you’ll share this story.

Tweet it: What if you could only work with people born the same year as you? Most schools group kids based on the year they were born. Why is that? #ChangeTheStory #FutureforLearning

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