The problem with education is teaching to a test. This model will never inspire students and will rarely keep them engaged. Teachers and educators need to impart their passions and create occasions for students to care. Nel Noddings writes about this new pedagogical model in The Challenge to Care in Schools. In order to make a difference, the element of care needs to be at the center of any educational/pedagogical model, it needs to replace the static disciplines of the old system. At the end of the day, the school’s goal should be to promote the growth of students as healthy, competent and moral people – not just straight As and high SAT scores.
The challenge then is to teach kids how to see the magic in everything and the value in life, to incite an intellectual curiosity. So how do we get youth to care? We start with their personal lives, their inner-circle. We need to capitalize on what students are passionate about. We need to figure out WHAT students want to learn, and help them to find their talents. This alternative curriculum focuses on allowing students to actualize their uniqueness and their talents, to foster these capacities, rather than force them to learn subjects they have no interest in. In other words, we need to match the education to the student, not the other way around.
The idea of “care” is key in all of this. Students need to feel cared for. They need to care about themselves, their neighbors, the world they live in, and the ideas they think about. Among these centers of care, there’s an emphasis on care of the physical self. In a school context, this comes in the form of physical education which should be presented as an open discussion on issues of fitness, health, exercise options, etc. Noddings writes that “It is important for all young people to discover what refreshes and renews them. A well-integrated life includes intervals of activity that energize and make us feel whole” (89). The physical development of a child can’t be overlooked as less legitimate than intellectual development. Sports engage the power of the community for support, with parents and fans attending sporting events and friends playing together in an example of healthy competition.
Youth also need outlets to show the world what they care about. Media provides an opportunity for youth to tell their story, it provides a platform to disseminate the story of their lives and what they prioritize. In the movie Chain Camera, we see Winfred, a high school boy passionate about football but struggling to practice the sport he loves because of poor grades in math. Through this edited video, Winfred uses the camera as a stage to express his desire to be accepted and his identity as a football player. As media educators, we can then take the issues that youth care about and expand them to fit into the larger system and make them relevant to the rest of the world. Caring about sports and physical development is so much more than just a hobby, and it should be given equal weight in youth education.