I have taught the 20% project in all my classes for the last 3 years. The 20% project allows students to dive deeper into their interests and create something with it. It gives students the opportunity to experiment with their own ideas and try to figure out ways to make them tangible. While this is a great project for students to grow and learn, I have witnessed some shocking outcomes. About 15% of the students are initially comfortable with this project. The other 85% struggle with it at least initially. Most of those students who struggle with it constantly ask me as the teacher what I want them to do. This is very disturbing. Many students have been conditioned to wait to do what the teacher tells them to do or what to study. Student freedom has been ripped from them in their 9, 10 or 11 years of education. They are conditioned to wait. Wait for the next assignment. Wait for the test. Wait for the next chapter. Wait. Wait. Wait. I find this to be a very disturbing trend in education.
The 15% who somehow figured out that high school doesn’t have to be what I call a “holding pattern” thrive. I have seen some amazing ideas become real with this group of students. I have seen apps made, incredible studies in mythology, desktop publishing, art, music, and many businesses started. The students who realize that time is a huge asset at this age become driven. They do things to learn for themselves. They don’t fear failure because somehow they have been given the freedom to try and fail with their own passions and interests.
Let's find ways to give our high school students more freedom to find their passion and interests through daily curriculum. Let’s change things. Let’s throw out parts of the old system that are really unnecessary.