A Dream Deferred

One of my favorite movies is Field of Dreams. If you are unfamiliar with the movie, Ray and his wife Annie buy a farm and raise their chid in the middle of Iowa. One day Ray begins hearing voices that urge him to do something seemingly crazy. If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t reveal the ending. However, early in the movie, Ray is woken up by this mysterious voice saying, “If you build it, he will come.” I had a similar, less scary awakening this morning. I woke up with this quote from Langston Hughes on my mind.

A dream deferred is a dream denied.

All children have many powerful visions of the world. They see many ways which can change the world. Often, though, adults defer their dreams rather than help them achieve it… until you finish school, until you go to college, until you get a good-paying job… Adults see this as helping, but often this “help” decreases the imagination and creativity of students. Students begin to think school is the only way to fulfill their dreams or the only way to be successful.

Does American public education simply defer dreams, or do public education teachers make dreams possible? Can we do the latter by helping students realize their potential at a young age? I think we can. In fact, I think we must. Rather than defer dreams, we need to unlock dreams and help make them possible. Teachers need to be dream cultivators, schools need to be innovation cultivators.

Let us unlock the dreams of students. Students have access to highly-educated teachers, a professional social network, local community contacts, and a chance to inquire and shape their learning. Let’s not stand in their way! Students have access to more knowledge today than ever before. Public education should not restrict access to using the information. Teachers and schools should encourage using it.

I cringe when I hear teachers talk about reform claiming the Common Core, and its focus on “College and Career Readiness,” will change our education model. I do not care if my students go to college. Any path to success that includes a multiple choice gateway is a bad path! I want to help all my students realize their dream. If college is their dream, I want to help. If entrepreneurship is their dream, I want to help. If students want to travel the world, join the armed forces, work for their parents, apprentice as a skilled laborer… I want to help. I want to be a dream cultivator for my students. Let us get out of the way and help our students realize their dreams.

A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

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5 thoughts on “A Dream Deferred

  1. mkraible May 19, 2013 / 8:10 am

    I agree the dream of success for our students has been too long deferred. Stephen Covey says that paradigm shift is the only way to accomplish substantial change. Since this is race week in Charlotte, I will use a NASCAR analogy. You can’t get an additional 50 mph out of a carburetor adjustment, It requires a complete redesign. But the carburetor mechanic may not be the one to do the redesign. This is also true of a significant change in education. While career educators must clearly be involved, a successful paradigm shift will be created by a widely diverse team…may even include a retired software magnate!

    • Justin Staub May 19, 2013 / 8:30 am

      I agree, and this is my struggle with educational leadership. Do I stay in the classroom and see the relevance of my labor? Or, would my visions for change be more fruitful if I ventured into educational consulting and reform? I feel, right now, I need to stay with public education and demonstrate what effective reform NOW looks like. Then, if greater, more systemic reform is needed, I can take my ideas beyond my local classroom. This is a constant challenge, though.

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