Portraits of Students, Here and Now

Submitted By:
Meghan Tally, Windward School, Los Angeles, CA

The Purpose of Education--According to Students by Magdalena Slapik
The Atlantic, October 1, 2017

Although the conversation is framed around public schools, Magdalena Slapik’s project, “an oral history of the U.S. public education system as seen through students’ eyes,” has resonance and relevance for those of us in the independent sector. In this piece, The Atlantic offers glimpses of Slapik’s interviews with K-12 students across the country, asking them about the purposes of education and the roles of school and teachers in their lives. A photojournalist, Slapik creates a photo narrative in addition to an oral history, and her portraits of students celebrate their unique personalities and perspectives. The students articulate both timeless and timely expressions of education’s greater aims: “to broaden your mind,” “to become productive,” “to prepare for college,” “to make mistakes,” “to find passion.” Slapik investigates the age-old tensions between working to create “an educated citizenry” and serving as “pipelines into the workforce,” but the students with whom she speaks also locate us, profoundly, in the here and now as they consider identity, diversity, technology, and culture. Educators can read further and meet more of the students in Slapik’s project on hechingerreport.org, a resource offering perspective, inspiration, and important philosophical reminders about why we do the work we do.

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