Rethinking Education from Authoritarianism to Empathy

March 6, 2024

Have you ever pondered the essence of education?

In a world filled with standardized curricula and rigid structures, where does true learning thrive? Gary Stager, a seasoned teacher educator, voices his frustration with the prevailing state of education. His insights, shared in a recent conversation with Kevin Stoller, delve deep into the challenges and opportunities within our educational systems.

Stager's narrative is one of disillusionment with the status quo. He laments the lack of appetite for change, noting a troubling shift towards authoritarianism and fundamentalism in schools. The upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these trends, pushing education further down a path of conformity.

At its core, education should prioritize the holistic development of students. It's not merely about preparing them for college or standardized tests but about fostering empathy, social capital, and critical thinking skills.

How can we, as educators, parents, and advocates, come together to foster a more empathetic and inclusive approach to learning?

  • The current state of education is frustrating, with a lack of appetite for change and a shift towards authoritarianism and fundamentalism.
  • The science of reading debate oversimplifies the complex process of learning to read and fails to consider individual differences and cultural contexts.
  • There is a need for diverse models of education that allow students to fall in love with learning and pursue their passions.
  • Promoting and sharing stories of successful educational models is crucial in challenging the status quo and inspiring change. Higher education is valuable not only for personal growth but also as a statistical predictor of longevity.
  • The focus on college admissions has created an artificial crisis and narrowed the paths for students.
  • Education should prioritize creating memorable experiences and fostering social capital.
  • The current education system needs to shift its focus away from college and towards the holistic development of students.
  • True conversations about education and reevaluating goals are essential for meaningful change.

In addition to being a popular keynote speaker at some of the world’s most prestigious education conferences, Gary Stager is a journalist, teacher educator, consultant, professor, software developer, publisher, and school administrator.

An elementary teacher by training, he has taught students from preschool through doctoral studies. In 1990, Dr. Stager led professional development in the world’s first laptop schools and played a major role in the early days of online education. Gary is the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute for educators.

Learn more about Gary Stager:

Constructing Modern Knowledge:

Become a Member


ALEP / Certificate Programs


Comprehensive industry education: ALEP and Advanced Certificate Program


Online Awards


Visit our showcase of past online entry submissions


LearningSCAPES 2024


October 16-19, 2024
Portland, OR