Are we, educators, really teaching students to be the most mature? According to my observations over the last 10 years, the answer is no. My experience is that when I sit with colleagues, or parents, in IEP meetings, or in Parent-Teacher conferences, we all-too-often direct students to be independent. I hear it all the time: phrases that encourage the student to be self-sufficient and dependent on nearly nothing, phrases such as "we want you to be independent when you get out of school." There is no question students come to us in the primary and elementary grades dependent on their parents, dependent on their teachers, and/or dependent on the school system as a whole. There is also no question we should want to move all of our students from the dependency stage to a more independent stage, but then what? Unfortunately, the majority of the time we stop there.
According to the late, great Stephen Covey, we need to focus more of our energy in creating truly effective citizens who can work in teams, work cooperatively and efficiently with others, and who can move far with an organization. This is the most mature. Covey's maturity continuum in the upper right-hand corner details the interdependency stage as being the most mature. This should be our aim in public schools. After all, as MIT professor and author of The 5th Discipline, Peter Senge states, whether we like it or not, "we live in webs of interdependence." We live in these webs as one part of a family, one part of a classroom, one part of a team, etc. And, if we live in these webs of interdependency then we are "connected." And, if we are "connected," then we need to push our children to appreciate each other, cooperate each other, work peacefully alongside of each other.
The next time you hear an educator speak of pushing a student toward independence and stopping there, why not mention the mature state of interdependency? Present it as another option. If the stage if interdependency is a habit of highly effective people, then shouldn't we present it to our students and their parents more often? Here is quick snapshot of Stephen Covey's idea of interdependence and Senge's web of interdependence being represented as "connections" we all share as humans:
What can you do to encourage interdependency more often? Where do you hear most often the independence stage being pushed and encouraged only to hear the stage of interdependence go unmentioned?