Shareski and Stager on inauthentic student voice

Dean Shareski says:

I think the words were important but when it comes from someone who didn’t write them and it’s positioned as if it is, it becomes disingenuous and very pretentious. . . . [L]et’s advocate for student voice but not fake ones. Our students do have a voice. Most of them are childlike, full of child like ideas and most aren’t as eloquent as adults because they aren’t adults. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing, helping them develop that voice. Yet we do have some that are ready for prime time and we should provide ways for them to share. I know some districts have had students keynote. I think that’s great, as long as the core of their story is their own, not the districts or their teachers. I’d way rather listen to a student share a less polished message that was their own than using them like a puppet to further other adults’ agendas.

Gary Stager says:

Student voice without what Seymour Papert calls “kid power” is worse than empty rhetoric, it is a lie. . . . Too much of what is offered as “student voice” offers a false sense of agency, power, or freedom to the powerless.

Both posts are well worth reading. (hint, hint)

We need to stop putting words in the mouths of children and pretending that they’re theirs. It’s disingenuous and calculating and an insult to our youth.

4 Responses to “Shareski and Stager on inauthentic student voice”

  1. I think it’s critical to understand that student voice isn’t a singular entity, either. There is a certain set of talking points to #stuvoice that fails to allow students to articulate something that goes against the rail-against-the-system style of progressive ed.

    For example, I had a student write a blog post called, “Kids Hate School, Because Kids Hate Everything.” It was slightly snarky, unpolished and honest. The main premise was that 7-8th graders hate all institutions: school, family, church, etc. That’s part of being that age. So, maybe we should take it with a grain of salt.

    When I tweeted this out, I had accusations that I had prompted the post or that the kid was indoctrinated or that it was “conservative.” A fellow blogger even accused the student of having Stockholm Syndrome.

    In other words, student voice can only be student voice when it advocates a set of policies that are popular in the ed tech, unschooling, PBL communities.

  2. In a class discussion on “how technology has changed school,” the conversation shifted to homework. Students complained that they don’t know how much homework they have day to day. That led one student to share a deeper story of choosing classes and teachers that don’t give excessive amounts of homework because of the trials of their home life day- to-day. “I wish teachers could understand how difficult this is,” the student said. I then asked “ok, how do we do that?” This is what they came up with:

    The video ruffled feathers, and some wondered why ‘I’ was “promoting student inquiry into the practice of education?” All I did was ask that one question and let the project roll.

    The interesting part, students spent a lot of time shaping the video to be ‘less aggressive’ on the topics they felt were important. They chose to construct the video using the voices and opinions of the teachers in the video in hopes to open up discussion on the issues.

    Hearing ‘authentic’ student voice is a practice lost or unfortunately discouraged in many schools.

  3. I definitely agree. It is so easy for a teacher, or any adult, to adjust a child’s words and thoughts but at that moment you have taken that students voice. Yes it may sound simple, and under developed but a 3rd graders outlook on a situation will never be verbalized the exact same way as any adult.

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