Human-Centered Education

Build human-centered classrooms around four values:

  • Learning is rooted in purpose-finding and community relevance.
  • Social justice is the cornerstone to educational success.
  • Dehumanizing practices do not belong in schools.
  • Learners are respectful toward each others innate human worth.
What is the Human Restoration Project?

Learning is rooted in purpose-finding and community relevance.

Cultivate purpose-driven classrooms by promoting experiential learning & community connection.

Research supports what teachers intuitively understand: that students ask fewer questions the longer they remain in school and engagement steadily declines over time.

“Promoting curiosity in children, especially those from environments of economic disadvantage, may be an important, underrecognized way to address the achievement gap. Promoting curiosity is a foundation for early learning that we should be emphasizing more when we look at academic achievement.”

At the same time, rates of depression and anxiety have steadily increased to become among the most diagnosed mental health disorders in children. Kids who feel isolated from school and their community frequently drop out turn to self-harm and self-medication through alcohol and drugs.

Purpose-finding, on the other hand, has been linked to prosocial outcomes and healthier lifestyles, and is inherently tied to positive identity and self-worth. By directly participating in building a better society and reflecting on the experience, students gain valuable insight into their identity in relation to the world around them.

A Human-Centered Education: Cultivates Purpose-Driven Classrooms – YouTube
A Human-Centered Education: Cultivates Purpose-Driven Classrooms

Dehumanizing practices do not belong in schools.

End dehumanizing classroom practices by lessening & removing grades, homework, and behaviorism.

Assigning a grade instead of purely focusing on feedback leads to decreased motivation and understanding, lower academic achievement, and increased rates of cheating. We may not ever be able to get rid of grades entirely, but diminishing the salience of grades and grading is necessary if we desire to shift from a teacher-centered language of grading to a student-driven language of learning in the classroom.

Where behaviorism fails to foster agency it simultaneously creates a framework for excluding neurodivergent and disabled students while enabling the policing of students from non-dominant cultural, linguistic, and racial backgrounds.

A Human-Centered Education: Ends Dehumanizing Practices – YouTube
A Human-Centered Education: Ends Dehumanizing Practices

Social justice is the cornerstone to educational success.

Demand social justice as a key toward educational equity and inclusive, critical pedagogy.

Nearly every nation on earth has been impacted by a history of colonization. In the United States in particular, we must also contend with the legacy of genocide, slavery, segregation, and inequity built into the foundation of our country. This history manifests today in part through the racialized outcomes of the prison-industrial complex and dehumanizing culture of policing imposed on all of our institutions, including school.

A Human-Centered Education: Demands Social Justice – YouTube
A Human-Centered Education: Demands Social Justice

Build a human-centered world.

Build a human-centered world: focus on collaboration over competition & ensure a thriving public education system.

While schools exist as a microcosm of society, schools also exist in dialogue with society and as a multiplier of its generative and destructive traits. When societies adopt the language of the market that rewards competition over collaboration, conflict over solidarity, and short-term individual gain over long-term mutual sustainability, it should not surprise us when school policies and practices reflect the same.

Think of how we describe academic achievement in schools through the language of scarcity – achievement gaps, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, good schools vs failing schools, student loan debt, GPAs and class rank – the socioeconomic context of any of these metrics is inseparable from what they purport to measure and reward. And what they communicate is clear: that children who grow up in proximity to wealth reap the academic and socioeconomic benefits.

A Human-Centered Education: Builds a Human-Centered World – YouTube
A Human-Centered Education: Builds a Human-Centered World

It’s 100 seconds to midnight.

In January 2020 – in what now seems like a prophetic forecast for the distressing year to come – the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced to the world that it was “100 Seconds to Midnight”:

“It is 100 seconds to midnight. We are now expressing how close the world is to catastrophe in seconds – not hours, or even minutes. It is the closest to Doomsday we have ever been in the history of the Doomsday Clock. We now face a true emergency – an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin for error or further delay.”

It’s never been enough to “prepare every learner for a lifetime of personal success”, but a pedagogy of normalcy seems particularly maladaptive for the challenges our students will face.

So what does a human-centered education look like 100 seconds from midnight? What is it about the world that is worth preparing students for, and are we dedicated to the work of building that better world alongside them?

100 Seconds to Midnight: The Need for a Human-Centered Education (Full Documentary) – YouTube
100 Seconds to Midnight: The Need for a Human-Centered Education (Full Documentary)

Let’s reimagine education.

As the atomic clock nears ever closer to midnight, we cannot rely on young people to save us. The threats of our world today cannot be remedied by a “return to normalcy”, an imagined nostalgia for the way things once were. This was always a mythos of classrooms past that promoted some students while letting the rest fall through the cracks.

The future depends on educators, in coalition with other movements to create an equitable society, to demand and make change here in the present.

What will education look like in 2040? Well, in the absence of action, this is the future. Taking proactive steps toward change can make the difference between surviving and thriving in that future. Our present dehumanizing conditions are the result of the accumulation of decisions made by individuals and propagated through systems. So too can the process of humanization work to create positive change:

  • You can promote curiosity without demanding high-stakes test scores.
  • You can engage learners without grades.
  • You can encourage and normalize iterative failure while ensuring no one gets left behind.
  • You can build spaces of cooperation within a society that has normalized competition.
  • You can have hope in spite of darkness.
The Challenge Ahead: A Call to Action for Progressive Educators – YouTube
The Challenge Ahead: A Call to Action for Progressive Educators

School systems are role-playing normalcy and functionality in an ever abnormal and dysfunctional environment.

What Does a Human-Centered Education Look Like 100 Seconds to Midnight? – YouTube

Further reading,

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Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic retired technologist turned wannabe-sociologist. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they