Every child starts with a natural curiosity, but educational abuse destroys it. What if we re-designed education to preserve that curiosity above all else?
The First Day of Kindergarten
On the first day of kindergarten, two groups of children show up for class: those who have been read to, and who have become comfortable around books.
And those who have not.
One of the worst things we do in our schools is that we throw these two groups of children into the same classroom, and make the second group feel like failures.
We have endless lists of goals for our children, and then we design approaches that forces them toward the goals. And in forcing them, we destroy the child’s natural curiosity.
I have noted that we homeschool our children. My son is crackerjack at almost everything he tries. Except math. Before we started homeschooling, in his first grade class the children were forced to do 3-minute math drills. The kids couldn’t go to recess until they got them all right. My son is already very conscientious about his work, and the stress made him an emotional wreck. So now he avoids math.
It’s educational abuse.
Who thinks these things up? What sort of person puts 5 year-old children in these sorts of pressure cookers? Does no one out there have any understanding of how a child’s mind works?
I spoke to a woman recently who has only recently started reading again. She used to love reading. Then her school system started forcing her to read books, and she grew to hate it. Again, it is educational abuse. Her natural, in-born desire to learn was destroyed, or at least badly damaged.
I have repeatedly talked about how useless our paradigms of education are, that almost no one remembers what they learn in school, and that those of us who do remember are not so much products of our schools, but survivors of the educational abuse within them.
So I have been thinking, what if we scrapped it all? What if we had only two hard goals for 13 years of education: first, we would insure that every child learns the basic four mathematical functions; and second, that every child loves to read.
Note, I did not say learn to read. I said learn to love to read.
Modern education is designed, not around children, but around textbooks and dogma. We train our children to be mindless, soulless, memorize-but-don’t-think clerks. Kids start off naturally curious, and we destroy it.
We have an educational system that trains kids to hate exactly what we want them to love, and worse, to hate what they do naturally.
A Love of Reading
What if we could guarantee that every child loves to read? That they might not have to suffer through lectures on the Truman Doctrine, that they aren’t impressed into solving matrices, and that they are never beaten into memorizing “But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?”
What if they just loved to read?
What if the only goal of education was to guarantee that the curiosity which every child brings to the first day of school, that curiosity which is natural and universal from birth, that the curiosity which is essential to lifelong learning, that the curiosity which is the highest goal and virtue of education – were left undamaged? What if our schools were simply designed to insure that our children remained exactly how they started out: curious?
What if we stopped the educational abuse?
Primum non Nocere
When we look around at what we currently produce after 13 years of institutional misery and educational abuse, we see jaded, materialistic, limited intellects, who are enthusiastic about pop culture and consumerism, but largely disinterested in their obligations as citizens and workers. Then consider, that if we taught them less, but they wanted to continue learning, think how much further along our nation and our world would be.
The first rule of medicine is Primum non nocere: ‘First, do no harm.’
It needs to become the first rule of education, too.
Photo courtesy of OddSock on Flickr.com.