I ‘ve been hearing about companies that don’t limit time off for their employees. They are expected to simply get their tasks done, the how and when the process plays out is less important than the final product. That opens up the employees ability to control their work time, their play time, their personal time, and, “shockingly”, they report to be happier and more productive. It works, studies show: trusting them to manage themselves and their time, valuing their time, leads them to be highly effective workers.
Despite these findings, the norm in most places, be it work or school, is a complete lack of trust that people will want to actually “do the work”. In school environments the fact that the students are being forced to learn materials in a very artificial way does make it hard to believe the kids will still “do the work” because, well, they wouldn’t – and why should they? It’s not their work, it’s the school systems work. The kids have no say in what they are doing or why they are doing it. Our society’s assumptions about how people learn presumes that people, and especially kids and teens, wouldn’t learn anything unless compelled to do so.
Of course this is wrong, but we’re so used to this model of how to educate someone that we can’t see how counter-productive it is. By making school systems the de facto “way it’s done” we end up negating any other valid method of learning because it would not work within that type of system.
When people feel more in control over how and where they spend their time, they will, more often than not, choose to do the right thing. When people feel as connected to their work lives as they do to their personal lives, they find themselves more balanced and healthy and like their work – even when it gets challenging, even when parts of the work are frustrating. Most people want to improve themselves and contribute positively to whatever group they belong.
If we want more people to do this we have to stop crushing it out of them and making them believe they don’t have any power or control in their lives which, sadly, is the very thing that happens in schools, a system born out of the Industrial Revolution model of worker conditioning. I don’t want to be just a Worker Bee and I certainly want more than that for my kids. I want my kids to be active participants in whatever job or career they have. It isn’t the job that keeps us down, it’s how we feel about it.
How lovely would it be if our society recognized this and found true ways to empower kids – not just lip-service “Empowerment” exercises – “OK, students, now we’re going to do some self esteem exercises!” – the kids still are being told what to do and when to do it – they aren’t experiencing real empowerment. These same kids grow up to be the kind of employees and employers who can’t believe that people can be trusted to do the right thing because no one trusted them and they learned THAT life lesson all too well.
Photo by Paul Stang. Women and children at work in the field. Stongfjorden, Sogn og Fjordane Fylke, Norway.