John Legend expressed in a personal essay on CNN his views on why education should evolve its teaching system so that students cultivate what really interests them. His empowering essay is a part of the larger ($30 million) initiative of Reimagine Learning, an ambitious project funded by the philanthropic New Profit. Reimagine will financially support this exciting academia movement and Legend is a prized spokesperson for it.
Legend, a UPENN grad and charity advocate, gravitated towards the project because of his own past battles of wanting to follow his dreams of becoming a musician versus having a career that was cubicle-set. Included on his essay, he remembered as clear as day that post-collegiate, his conflicted feelings definitely took a toll on him emotionally:
At first, I took a job at a big consulting firm, mostly because it felt like what I was “supposed to do.” While I enjoyed the experience and learned a great deal, I couldn’t shake my passion for music. I had followed the somewhat predictable path of a college graduate, but I was obsessing over how to become an artist.
Legend’s honesty exposed a common issue that a lot of students across the grades experience, especially those who aspirations are more practicing their acceptance speech for the Grammys after band practice than submitting dry, intricate data entry (not that that’s something to be made fun of for! For some people, it’s what they’re good at. We couldn’t even begin to tell you what in some of those charts!) He doesn’t resent learning the rudimentary facts of great work ethic and learning topics outside of his comfort zone, but still, even after his success, he wondered if he was cultivated from the start to be the artist he always knew he could be what a difference that might’ve been.
In standing with Reimagine Learning, whose goal is just that, Legend also believes that a more personalized or a less rigid, standardized education system could lead to more dreams realized because students will be allowed to move at a pace that just right for them. We all learn differently:
It’s also why we need to break with the long-held expectation that schools exist to mold and manage kids. In today’s world, expecting every child’s education to be the same, progress at the same rate and be measured against the same narrow standards of performances is not just outdated, it’s a disservice to young people and to the educators who dedicate their lives to helping them.
Legend introduced us to Understood.org, an online community of fifteen non-profit organizations, and the educational launch, through his Show Me campaign, of LRNG, backed by the National Writing Project and the MacArthur Foundation.
We completely related to Legend’s story of wanting to pursue a real career in the arts and having felt unsure if what his gut was telling him was the right thing to do. It’s always commendable when a student aspires to be a scientist or marine biologist, because truthfully those jobs are tough, but sometimes an extra word or push of encouragement for those of us that love writing, creating music, or painting is all an artist needs to keep going. We all deserve to have our dream job as long we put in the work! It’s great that all of the foundations mentioned in his essay are determined to serve both our future Einsteins and Toni Morrisons. To quote Legend, “Let every child’s light shine.”