I wrote a post a few months ago about a conversation I had with my daughter that reminded me of why we need Universal Design for Learning (UDL)–if we never teach our students and children to become “Expert learners who are purposeful & motivated, resourceful & knowledgable, and strategies & goal-oriented,” we will end up with a generation of workers who are unemployable.
This reality hit home for me again when I read this article on MSN.com about the increase in teller-free lines at grocery stores. Personally, given the opportunity, I am the first person to take my bag of six lemons, my bag of six limes, and my box of arugula to the self-check out lane at Hannaford’s. After all, I get to skip awkward conversations with humans (bonus). And I can race the machine to see if I can get the next item already scanned before the annoying canned voice reads off the price (small pleasures). I can bag my own groceries JUST THE WAY I LIKE THEM BAGGED without anything getting squished. What’s not to love!?!?!
What’s not to love is the fact that check-out lanes, a place where generations of kids took their first steps in learning how to be functional in an adult world of work, are disappearing. I was out doing some grocery shopping recently and, in contrast to my usual in-and-out at Hannaford’s, I went to Market Basket instead, home of my favorite coconut milk. There are no self-checkout lanes at Market Basket. There is no website for weekly deals. There is no frequent shopper club. But there is a culture that led to the remarkable turn-around in August 2014. And it’s a store where the kids are expected to wear (clip-on) ties from day one, where every item purchased comes is scanned by an employee. However, until the Market Basket mentality takes over the world, we had better find other ways to build possibilities for our kids, so that they don’t face a future of automated teller lines that extend from banks to grocery stores and beyond.
I believe the biggest gift UDL gives us to help combat this situation is fact that UDL asks us, as practitioners, to hold our students to being in charge of their own learning. UDL is not about handing off choices and walking away…it’s about holding students responsible for making choices AND responsible for being able to discuss why they made the choices they made and how/when/why a choice is effective or ineffective. In that space, I believe, is the hope to counter a future of human-free grocery stores and banks and…..