Our educational system is obviously failing. From the elementary levels all the way to the graduate levels of college. We somehow have come to the conclusion that boring our children out of their minds and scaring them to into believing that their futures ride on that bordem is the right course in teaching them. What people have lost sight of is the fact that children want to learn. Curiosity comes with the territory. What I want to know is how and why adults think we know what our children are going to excel in, especially before they even begin any projects!
First off, learning should never be a chore. From the ground up–from the elementary level on, learning should be a wonderful, fun and inspiring experience. Children need to look back on their education and think of all the wonderful discoveries they made, not the scary and grueling tests they had to take. Next, each child is different. Everyone has their one unique qualities, their own unique talents and interests. Those talents and interests will help each child gravitate toward what they want to learn. By encouraging those interests and feeding that curiosity, the child will continue to learn and expand his/her knowledge base. By squelching that interest and trying to redirect the child elsewhere, you simply shut the door to learning. We are here to open minds and expand the children’s knowledge, not shut their minds down.
Our children deserve a better way. I get so frustrated with the concept of forcing children to do things they do not want to do. When I was in kindergarten, my teacher would try to force me to take a nap with the other children. This was something my body was not willing to do. I would get into trouble every day for staying awake. That’s a pretty crazy thing to get into trouble for, isn’t it? I mean, if I simply could not sleep, shouldn’t she just give me a quiet time activity, like reading, so I could be occupied without disturbing the other children?
Children need to be in a comfortable environment to learn. I remember my elementary years quite well. I also remember learning very little. What I did learn, I picked up on my own, outside of school. I think that a lot of children feel much the same way. Since they are uncomfortable at school, they feel that they learn very little there. What they do learn happens when the school has special events, such as field trips, that the children enjoy.
The key to a successful future for our children is to ensure that they have a comfortable and encouraging learning environment. We must not scoff at their interests, but relate those interests to the world around them. Make connections to their surroundings and expand those interests to include more and more things until that curiosity is all consuming. Eventually we can teach them everything we know, and leave it to them to discover more.
As far as the higher education is concerned, we’ve taken this “classroom philosophy” all the way to the graduate level. We rely more on test results than we do real world results. Students who show beautiful research potential, participate excellently in class discussions (showing that they are retaining the information learned in class), yet test poorly, fail out of college. These people pay tens of thousands of dollars to be told that they are failures when in actuality it is the system that is failing. Many of the tests are set up to confuse students and when there is a time limit involved, the whole system falls apart. Someone’s real world knowledge base cannot be “tested” through a timed multiple choice written test with obscure questions, plain and simple.
That’s where the apprenticeship idea I was talking about earlier comes in. While teaching these prodigies hands-on, the companies can see their abilities first hand. Of course there would be a clause in the contract that the prodigy would have to be capable of the job to be able to accept it, otherwise the company would have to let him/her go. Both company and prodigy would not want that to happen. For the prodigy it would be like failing out of college and the company would have wasted a lot of resources for nothing.
No matter what, I feel that our educational system needs one heck of an overhaul. It saddens me to think that it will probably never get it.