In many colleges in the United States, almost half of first-year college students do not make it to graduation. Stop and think about this for a minute. Our current US higher education system is designed in such a way that it kills the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of almost 50% of the students who enter through its gates. As you meditate on this reality, let’s run a related thought experiment. What would you say about an airline company that designs and flies planes that kill 50% of it’s passenger? Would you buy a ticket from that company? Would you support letting that company maintain the status quo?
To me, when I think about how our current policy choices fail to support so many students, I see a need for major reforms. I want to avoid blaming students and faculty for this failure. While I believe each of us has a moral responsibility to challenge current policies and advocate for reform, I also realize that no individual shoulders the entire weight of the injustices that are baked into our current system. Instead, I believe we should learn to focus our collective energies on policy changes to better support our local communities in creating significant learning experiences in college and beyond. Such policy changes will require decades (if not centuries) of sustain activism at the grass-roots level.
In the meantime, if you are part of the current generation of college students, our community here at The Learning Code wants to help you develop and refine system-navigation skills so that you can thrive in an environment that is designed to weed you out. As part of this effort, I want to help you develop a scrapper’s mindset, which is exactly what we explore in this post.
In this article, we expand our previous discussion of the five stages of deep learning. Specifically, we explore techniques you can use to accelerate your progress through each stage of your learning. Moving from stage 0 into stage 1 requires different type of practice routines than moving from stage 1 into stage 2, and so on. With each bit of progress, the learning skills you employ need to adapt to your growing level of expertise. Here, we explore what you can do to propel your transition from your current stage of learning into the next stages of your development.
When we receive our education while engaging in deep learning, we are interrupting 400 years of inequality. We are interrupting lies that have been told about who we are as 1st generation, international, black indigenous students of color. We are interrupting lies that others have told themselves about who they are. We are interrupting what stands in the way of our collective humanity and achieving the ideals of democracy. To do so, we must see ourselves not as victims but victors because we have to face who we are, what our dreams are, and think about how we are raised. The Learning Code, and all student-centered educators, are trying to interrupt the 400 years lie about what underrepresented, marginalized members of society are capable of learning and achieving. This country has shady receipts of when our civilization goes beyond 400 years too. America is very young. The legacy that lives within us humans of color, has cultures that go back from hundreds and thousands of years. So when we were dropped in our first school, where they suppressed our authenticity and creativity, that’s not where our story begins.
One of the most cowardly things a person can do is awaken the love of a partner without the intention to ever love them back. That’s what schools have done. Schools that sold off the narrative that to be educated you gotta pursue these credentials, it’s a path towards possibility. It awakened the imagination of international, 1st generation immigrants, black indigenous students of color, that if we just pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, school is gonna lead us to the path to freedom, not just a W-2 paycheck. The system of school awakened our love, they sold us to the institution that never loved us back. As students we have to realize, when we enrolled in classes, we signed into this… now we are an appendage of the system. We can either follow it along or we can forge it to where it should go by focusing on our stages of deep learning. We have the responsibility to push the system we’re part of to fulfill the promise of love, liberty, equity, and justice for all.
Loving back our original dreams and aspirations brought us curiosity into the world. We gave our schools curiosity, what did they give us back memorization and a few citations?
What are we teaching for, replication or activation?
Are we learning for admiration or inspiration? Are they teaching us for toxic competition or liberation? propagation or salvation? Taxation without representation is a real thing y’all.
We came in with so much energy and hope to pursue something bigger than us, and they told us to sit down and take a test. I came here to have my world opened up and you said, what’s the standard? I came with the question of what the world is about, you gave me a rubric. So I keep bringing to you something bigger than my universe, and you keep bringing me back something that cannot quench my thirst for knowledge. Standards are so basic, real dreamers don’t have standards, we have pursuits. There’s no ceiling for pursuits. We came in with our shoulders back, and reached out for something bigger than the world, and you’re forcing us to bend over and take notes… all while not telling us how you truly learned these subjects. The only way to surpass this reality is each one of us has the responsibility to reveal that the bamboo ceiling is paper.
There is ‘nothing’ an initiative, a foundation, or a school is creating, that’s gonna save international, 1st gen, black, indigenous, students of color, that does not exist in the imaginations of the hearts and souls of those populations already. My work like brother Jeff and Steve’s, along with sister Katherines, and the respective villages that have empowered us to find our voice and engage in deep learning, is to uncover the structures of traditional schooling that have made it so that deep learning could not occur. More often than not institutions have created the normalizing of oppressive practices, such as the myth of meritocracy, grades, technical/theoretical/abstract lectures without any guidance on previewing or understanding such events, and standardized testing, through our institutions that are supposed to be the salvation. This salvation was marketed to us as “the American dream”. We want to highlight the hypocrisy of institution-centered curriculum, and the notion that education is a path towards emancipation, in a system that was founded on ensuring certain members of our population will never be fully actualized. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, come sit into my computer science courses.
We want to give truth with our words and voice to the gaslighting, that is part and parcel of the system in education. We want to do all this by helping you create deep learning experiences within your academic pursuits. When we have pursuits, we have no limits, whereby the definition of standards there are limits. I want us as a collective community to realize we can have a focus on academic rigor concurrently with a focus on humanity. I want to help each other operate with the paradigm, to where we see students as scientists and mathematicians undiscovered. Our job is not to force them to learn the material in a one dimensional way from us, but to help us collectively ignite the fire that exists within us so they can learn deeply. My work is an extension of TLC when we speak to the mission of helping you all learn anything you want to learn to achieve your dreams, in the underbelly of the powers that be.
I am a reflection of all of your stories, rhetoric, and narratives. I do so through computer science, in humanities, through service and culture, through truth telling, but at the anchor of it all, I’m a peer educator, because you, are my peer connections.
How do we get folks to get their hearts right? How do we get people to stop enacting violence on us through curriculum or standards driven by the unconscious biases and flawed assumptions they hold about us. Be a good ancestor – find out your origin story.
Below are questions from the Common Application that I encourage all of us to reflect on.
Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
Conversations and mentorship from Katherine Lee, Steve Silva, Jeff Anderson, Scott Lankford, Cynthia Rostankowski, Valerie Fong, Brian Cheung Dooley, Ellen Middaugh, Mark Felton, Sonya Bennett-Brandt, EOPS, MESA, College of Ed., OpenStax, Foothill, SJSU and many others…
Podcasts and other media by: Chris Emdin, Kimberly Crenshaw, Zaretta Hammond, Jennifer Gonzalez, Tara Yosso, and also many others…
To understand two key ideas I was building off of in this post here they are:
In this post, we develop a model for five stages of deep learning. Remember that we defined learning as a process that leads to change. The 5-phase model we explore in this article helps identify distinct stages in this process of deep learning. This model will help you figure out how to push your learning deeper and develop your expertise in any skill or knowledge that you want to master.