Captain (Junior Grade)
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:23 pm
I'm probably climbing on a bit of a soap box here, but I'll give it a go anyway....
It's a clearly liberal piece with a few salient points that address learning but fail to note many of the aspects of formal education. Additionally it does not offer any firm countervailing techniques to educate children.
I won't hammer the article point by point, but address a few statements that really struck me.
'for heavily structured education, where learning is set apart from the threads that connect it to what has meaning and purpose for the learner.' - It seems the writer has missed the purpose of learning in a heavily structured education. The purpose of learning is to provide meaning and purpose to knowledge for the learner. To provide explanation for the world around them so that they can more fully comprehend what it is they are experiencing.
The writer goes on to discuss how this doesn't focus on a child's interest in a skill or mastery. That part is true, education is designed for the masses. To provide knowledge to most people in a way which they can comprehend and digest. Most people's education is not tailored to their individual interests and personalities. That is expensive and time consuming. The public education system is struggling to teach children as much as it can with the smallest amount of time, materials and effort. That is not possible under a system which would let children hair off after whatever strikes their fancy for the moment.
I do acknowledge and agree that children learn best when they are interested, motivated and engaged. most people learn best at that point. However we cannot do this in a practical manner if you want systematically performed education.
'the top priority in school is completing assignments correctly and scoring well on tests.' - This is a huge complaint of mine. Schools teach to tests and do not educate children nearly as much as they once did. This is due, not primarily to the teachers, but to the government and administrative requirements imposed upon the teachers to meet created standards so that their efforts can be quantified. That said, it is a required part of learning that you be tested on what you know. Without testing, something we go through daily in all facets of our lives if we realize it or not, you have no way to judge your retention and learning. Testing does not need to be a written exam. It can be a practical application of the knowledge, or any other method the teacher can come up with. We cannot allow students to simply say, 'I know this' and move on. Written tests are a convenient and simple method checking for knowledge.
The idea of more active involvement in education is difficult to achieve. I agree that children don't do well sitting in seats and listening to lectures, however the great bulk of what a person learns prior to graduating school, what is considered useful and valuable to society, are things which are best learned in this fashion. Reading, writing, history, mathematics, foreign languages, civics... All courses that you cannot truly engage in constructive activities to learn. yes, there are ways to involve students and engage them in play and activities which help bring home the lessons, but the great bulk of the learning simply requires study.
'Thinking too carefully or deeply may result in the wrong answer. The right answer from a child’s personal perspective may actually be the opposite of the correct answer, but to get a good mark the child cannot be true to his or her experience.' - This sort of mumbo-jumbo is absolutely asinine. There is no personal perspective or being true to his experience when it comes to most of what is taught in school. A word is either spelled correctly or it is not. The same is true for math, history and many many other subjects. When a student is ready to start exploring research and development of science and mathematics, when they are ready to debate law, morality or philosophy, than they may work from their perspective and experience. For children in school they have not attained sufficient life experiences to begin having the correct answers to most knowledge that is being imparted in school.
The follow on comment in the article is about loosing originality. A gain, there is little or no originality required or allowed. You either know when Napoleon crossed the river for the battle or you do not. You do not get to create your own original date for the founding of the United States or recreate what 1+1 is. In classes such as art, philosophy or music you can learn and grow creativity. Developing programing skills or hands on activities in shop classes engages the other side of the mind. There you can be original. But if you try to be 'original' when building a desk without understanding the fundamental requirements of bracing and supporting the structure, you'll be doomed to failure. First you learn how and why to build something in a given way, then you can move on to trying your own methods.
'The way it is presented tends to be indirect, inactive and irrelevant to the child. Schoolwork repeatedly emphasizes skill areas that are lacking rather than building on strengths' - This is a natural part of learning. If you don't know something, why would we skip over it to teach you something you already know? School aged children are there to have skills that are lacking improved. Unfortunately there is not much direct and active learning available for things like history, math and writing skills. You can only write, speak, read, perform math problems repetitively until you understand the concept or have memorized the language. Again, we cannot tailor school for the masses to each child's individual strengths and weaknesses. I would encourage any parent or guardian to hold back their child from advancing to the next grade if they are not ready emotionally or mentally. If your child cannot read at a sixth grade level after leaving sixth grade, find a tutor, hold them back or address the issue some how because this lack will only get worse as time progresses and the rest of the education system moves on without them being able to keep up.
'Young people are relentlessly shuttled from the classroom to enrichment activities to organized sports and back home to play with educational toys or apps when there’s very little evidence that all this effort, time and money results in learning of any real value.' There are a number of studies, I can site sources from major universities to child development groups, which show that educational toys help children learn and be engaged at a young age. Additionally being involved in sports develops physical fitness, social interactions and social skills, but helps to counter balance all the time spent in a chair studying the books.
The difficulty with the article's premise is that it urges copying societal aspects which work in the small group and lower technology levels but not in reverse. If we had unlimited funding for education and could tailor each child's education to their abilities, skills and interests while letting them actively pursue only basic skills than we could let children learn in this fashion. However, we are required to learn the basics, each step building on itself. You do not show a child chaos mathematics and expect him to build a space shuttle at first glance. She must learn the basic steps, baby steps, along the way to each set of tools needed to understand the more advanced ideas and technologies. You learn to read, to write, to add and to subtract. Than you can learn algebra, geometry and calculus... Eventually you understand enough mathematics to begin learning that chaos math which was so interesting.
Until you build the mental tools to build the next set of tools and so forth, you have no more chance of mastering the skills of interest than you do of flying without wings.
I recognize that the system we have can be improved in many ways, I just do not believe that the person who has written this article truly understands what they are advocating. A child turned loose in modern society to 'learn as they're interested' would quickly become a child who does nothing but laze about, a burden on society and not contributing in the least fashion. A gross oversimplification (and I know not all children would end this way, but the majority would, I feel.) of what would happen but a valid result.
For those who wish to try this method, I suggest they relocate to a few of the third world nations where there is no strict form of schooling. Send us a post card on how the effort to educate your child, for them to learn to be of value to society and themselves, works out.