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John is the vice president of leadership engagement for Stand Together Ventures. He works with the Ventures community to develop bold partnerships and innovations that accelerate the efforts of Stand[…]
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yes. every kid.

JOHN HARDIN: A fun exercise is to ask someone when was a time when you were really passionate, when you were just super fired up about learning. When you couldn't stop; you stayed up late at night because you had to learn more about something. For me, the time that stands out was the first time that I did some public speaking. I didn't want to do it. I was sort of peer pressured into it. I refused. They got me to do it and there I am standing there with my little manuscript with hundreds of people looking at me. My hands are shaking and I started speaking and for me it was this just like eureka moment. It was crazy. I loved it and it felt natural. And so I immediately just poured myself into: How can I become a better public speaker? Or what are the opportunities to do that? What does it look like to teach? How do you get involved in teaching? I want to help to transfer information and share information with people.

I asked my wife this question the other day and her mom was a schoolteacher, and so she would have to hang out in the library while her mom was finishing up schoolwork, and she was reading a magazine and came across this article about an Ebola outbreak and she just thought it was fascinating. And so she just went on to read all these medical textbooks. She bought the encyclopedia of communicable diseases, carried it with her everywhere and she's just a kid, right? It's crazy. And she still has it. But she was so passionate about it. So if you think about, for you, what was that time or you ask somebody else that question, I think what we find is there's these common threads that run through it all. That it's something that you're passionate about. It's something that connects with you. It's relevant to you. It has meaning to you and that's where that love of learning really sparks and begins to grow.

And so the question then is: How do we help our kids? I mean, as a dad that's one of the biggest things on my mind. It's one of the greatest gifts I could give my kids, is help them cultivate a love for learning. And to do that what I've got to do is help them understand themselves. Help them connect with what they're passionate about and then build out the experiences and the knowledge around them so that they can explore and learn more. And then I've got to partner with educators and teachers and others so that in our education process it's not just me as a dad but we're all working together to help kids cultivate that spark, that love of learning. Because I can't think of much that's better than that that we could give to our kids.

it's interesting that if you went to school in this country, if you went to school in the U.S. then it's very, very likely that you and I went through the same sort of school process. Because, for the most part, we all did. We all went, in this country, went through the same schooling. So then the question is, well, why is that? Well we have to look at the history of education to understand it a little bit. Schools began to develop in the colonies in 1630 and really started in Massachusetts. And by the late nineteenth century, by the end of the 1800s you had schools that had popped up all across the country and you had this incredible diversity of philosophies and formats in education.

So, of course, then, one of the concerns became well how do we ensure that every student has the same opportunity and that every student gets the same quality of education. That's a valid concern. It's a really important question. The National Education Association actually convened in 1892 what's called the Committee of Ten. It was this committee of ten leaders in education. Most of them were presidents of colleges and universities. It was chaired by Charles Eliot, who was the president of Harvard University. And the charge before this committee was to really develop or to create a sort of uniform roadmap for how to do school. So they met with subcommittees and they produced this report in 1893 that really laid out this format for school. If you think about what your school experience was like and I think about what my school experience was like you probably had eight years of primary education. You probably had four years of secondary education. You probably went to school nine months out of the year from about eight o'clock to three o'clock, five days a week. You took a very specific sort of linear progression in English and math, probably 60 minute sections on each subject.

In high school you probably took a year of biology, you took a year of chemistry, you had a year or two of foreign language. That is, in a sense, the framework that was laid out in 1893 for what school should look like. In fact, the recommendation of the committee, they unanimously agreed that every subject should be taught to every student in the same way and to the same extent regardless of destination. So, in other words, every subject should be taught in the same way and to the same extent; it doesn't matter where kids are going or where they're at, that's how we approach education.

The challenge, of course, there is that every kid is not the same. Every kid is different. And so we find ourselves today still with that same approach in education. This sort of uniform system approach that does not really take into account the unique interests, the unique skills of each kid.