Unfortunately the US educational system encompasses an environment based on sameness.
In an educational setting, sameness leads to confusion, doubt, lack of confidence, underachievement, lack of engagement, lack of passion, diminished potential, and in many cases bullying.
Sameness begins with age-based grouping and is further sculpted by age-based benchmarks and standards. Students of the same age are corralled together in a classroom. These students experience the same schedules, the same locations in their school building; they line up and attend P.E. and music and art classes together–the same. A classroom full of students is offered the same lesson, the same expectations, the same delivery, the same information, the same approaches, the same time frames–as if each student is the same.
The terms Differentiation, individualization, and personalization get thrown around in educational settings, but are far from utilized. Instead of individualizing lessons, time frames and expectations, students who don’t quite fit the mold-of-same are often pulled out of their classrooms, or aided by additional programming so that their ‘needs can be met.’
Sameness is confusing to young humans. Until entering into a world of sameness, these young humans enjoyed a life of individuality. Suddenly when immersed in a world of sameness a child must compare himself to others. He is subjected to self-doubt that is unproductive. He begins to recognize that the social norm is sameness and that he must fit into this. He is more concerned with fitting the mold and less concerned with personal achievement, skill development, and the love of learning. Some students turn inward. Some lash out. Some excel. Some fail. Some just lose their sense of reality. Some are so desperate to display their individuality – to be noticed, that they become bullies–at least then they are somebody. And potentially the most tragic, our students learn to make decisions based on affiliation instead of making decisions based on their own thoughts.
Sameness is also damaging to teachers and professionals within the system. Teachers are inadvertently asked to manage and maintain an environment that is counter-productive to natural human development and individual student potential. They are asked to maintain a culture that directly inhibits community and individual growth. The structure creates a very tricky place to manage a group of young humans. In addition, teachers are generally creative, innovative beings who also do not do well in a world of mandated sameness. Teaching in such a world is exhausting and unfulfilling for them.
Traditional education’s loyalty to sameness does not serve the individuals it is charged with serving. In contrast – in an educational world that lacks sameness – individuals thrive. Creativity thrives. Community thrives. Humans thrive. If I had a magic wand, I would wipe away sameness in every classroom in America and beyond :).