In almost every area of the private and public sectors (think of representatives meeting with constituents or city hall meetings), there are ways for "customers"--those receiving the services or being represented--to make their voices heard. So why should education be any different?
Education? you might think. Surely there are those school board meetings or PTAs? But a crucial voice is missing in education: that of the student's. How often do classroom teachers ask students to provide them with feedback on how their teaching could be improved so students learn better? When was the last time administrators sat down with students and gave them decision-making power or at least input--no, not just over the theme of the Homecoming Dance or how to decorate the school for the holidays, but important issues like curriculum, required courses, or assessment?
I'm asking these questions because of an email from a prestigious education membership organization that my mom recently received in response to talks about a potential book I was hoping to write (that would bring issues of student voice, reciprocal learning, and education technology to the forefront). It said that based on their research, the education community "is not yet ready to receive the message from a student."
If the education community is unable or unwilling to receive a message about education from a student, I think we have problems. We'd find it unacceptable if our representatives suddenly started refusing to meet with constituents or if companies like Bank of America kept on charging ridiculous fees despite public uproar. Yet we accept that education doesn't want to hear from students? We are the "customers" of our nation's schools. It's in our interest to learn in the best way we can--many of my fellow students have plenty of wise insights that I think could help change education for the better--but that simply won't happen if the adults in the room are covering their ears.