John Legend, in a personal essay posted on CNN, expressed his views on how a less run-of-the-mill educational system would benefit the various interests of so many students. The empowering essay is a part of the larger initiative of Reimagine Learning, a $30 million ambitious project funded by the philanthropic New Profit. Reimagine will financially support this exciting academia movement and Legend is a prized spokesperson for the long-term cause.
As a UPENN grad and charity advocate, Legend 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. He remembers as clear as day how conflicted his feelings were post-collegiate and emotionally, it took a bit of a toll on him:
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 have. Especially when those aspirations are more like practicing a Grammys acceptance speech after band practice than submitting dry, intricate data entry (not that that’s something to be made fun of for! Some people are good at that. But we couldn’t even begin to tell you what’s in some of those charts!) Learning rudimentary facts of great work ethic and topics outside of his comfort zone he doesn’t resent. Still after he’s achieved musical success, he wonders if he had been cultivated from the start, as a student, what a difference that could’ve made.
Reimagine Learning’s goal is just that, as Legend also believes a more personalized or a less rigid, standardized education system could lead to more dreams realized. Students would then be allowed to move at a pace that was just right for them, because 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to be the same, progress at the same rate and be measured against the same narrow standards of performances is not just outdated, it’s a disservice to young people and to the educators who dedicate their lives to helping them.
Further down the essay, he introduces us to Understood.org, an online community of fifteen non-profit organizations, and the educational launch, through his own 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.”