I started out this week thinking about education. I have had interactions with all of our seven grandkids these past few days and you can’t help but think what is going on in those fertile brains ranging from 4-11 years. We are very fortunate because they are doing well in their own way. How does that happen? You look for common denominators and the two that stand out to me the most are creativity and parental interest.
I cogitated on our educational system both elementary and higher and tried to figure out if our kid’s kids are being best served. We have spent billions if not trillions trying to figure out what is the best way to get our kids up to speed. Over the decades we still have maintained a consistent model :construct a curriculum,lay it out there, and then test them to see if they absorbed it. Functionality at its best. I guess when you are educating 50 million kids you have to have some sort of common core not to use a worn out phrase. But it ain’t working.
The main thing about this learning thing is asking questions. You are pumped up about something and you want to know more about it. The “Why” questions of young’uns while maddening, demonstrate a desire. Our response is patient to a point and then we throw our hands up in exasperation and say,”Because I said so”. Also functionality at its best.
Now the triple fork in the road. Either the child is persistent, does the research on their own or they just meander on down life’s highway thinking, don’t go off script. KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid and don’t rock the boat. School is no different. The teacher has a lesson plan to teach. He or she can’t go off topic because they have to get through this by Thursday or they are behind. They’ve got 23 minds to mold and can’t take time out for neither the inquisitive nor the laggard. Just the way the system works. And yet that curiosity thing is in all of us.
Leonardo Da Vinci is my hero if you have read many of my previous treatises. He knew how to think with the best of them. In his book on DaVinci, Michael Gelb writes of Curiositae. That insatiable desire to learn more, to seek other solutions or to just challenge common theory is the thing we are all born with. Sadly it does not increase but rather ebbs with age. As parents we get tired of it. Our schools squander it. Our big corporations discourage it. And in the end society tells us to stay within the lines. Slow down TTG. Why do you worry about that stuff? Life is not an adventure but something to be lived in passive obeisance. Just play by the rules and you will get a gold watch in 25 years. What a minute! That was fifty years ago.
I don’t have the cure for our ills today but I do understand that a structure that places a premium on multiple choice rather than essay is going to turn out just that. We wonder why high school graduates need remedial help in reading and writing after being accepted into college? We just had to regurgitate back to the teacher what we had been told. The right answer is the one I gave you and any independent thought is gravely frowned upon in this institution.
We want to call out the teacher but I am not sure if they have any real control over it. The most talented feel their own creativity being repressed and it has to be devastating. We stand up and cheer with tears in our eyes at Good Will Hunting or Mr Holland’s Opus but all that crap is not going to get my son or daughter into a top 10 school. Mom and Dad want results on the SAT’s or else.
Therein lies the second part of the puzzle I have laid out. Parents are a funny lot. They are either happy to have the school district as full time babysitters or they hound and harass until the teacher puts in for an unlisted phone number. Many and especially those of lower economic means have at least one full-time job. At the end of a long day they don’t have time or desire to help with homework. They miss valuable lessons at the dinner table or on a weekend sightseeing trip. Listen kid, I have my life and you have yours.
Right now you are either nodding in agreement or feeling a little squeamish. I have watched numerous specials on the topic and read more than a number of articles and rarely if ever are the parents mentioned either as a consenting adult or absentee owner in this process.They are the first teacher for any child. They set the tone and environment. Is that one of interest and involvement or dismissal and placement of said object in front of the TV for endless periods of wakefulness? Even if the interest is present, there is a “Phew! My job is done,” as Jane or Johnnie is put in the safe hands of preschool.
Like anything else in this man’s world we believe the solution is in more money. We have superimposed a whole new bureaucracy on our educational system. Counselors, security guards, advisors, and superintendents to the superintendents. We have built new schools to provide an ambience while learning. Yet the numbers go down. Why?
I think we have to rethink this whole thing. The first and foremost of the R’s have to include reading and writing. Not part of the program in the first years but THE PROGRAM. If you can’t read the text or the computer screen you can’t learn. If you can’t express yourself in words as well as speech how can you go further unless you are earmarked to be a recluse or a monk at best. The fact a high school graduate can get into college without either of these facilities is beyond sad and borderline criminal.
Secondly we have to take that marvelous proclivity we have towards a particular discipline and nurture it, not put it down. We all have it and for most it remains untapped. Want to make this a better United States and a better world? Find people’s strengths and then the education to make them blossom. Think outside of the box on everything from farming to science and yes even a thing called hospice. Have that wonderful desire to not only excel but to really make things better. That thing called innovation starts with WHY? and then Why Not? It is that simple. Well, almost.
Ted The Great
The US spends around $11,000 per student educating them. $6500 of that is spent on instruction itself. The lowest per state is $7500 in Idaho and the highest is New Jersey with $18,000
The rates are all over the map but it seems that 25% of incoming freshmen is a good number when looking a remedial courses necessary to take college courses.
It is estimated that 70% of parents are involved in their children’s schooling via PTO meetings, Back to School nights etc. 65% of parents polled said they should be doing a lot more to further their child’s education.
Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. This can be in art,thought, science or industry
Innovation generally refers to changing or creating more effective processes, products and ideas,
I could have talked of uniforms. discipline,(vis a vis a learning environment) responsibility etc. but I wanted to keep it simple.