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.
One has to wonder why even those that want the government and unions to control their professions like teachers do why they do not understand how children learn as did the teachers many years ago. Everyday there is something that some teacher or principle does that just makes anyone with common sense shake their heads and say “you can’t fix stupid”.
As for children reading, my wife required 15 minutes of reading for 15 minutes of TV when the kids were very young and just learning to read. Then as they became older it was 2 minutes of reading for 1 minute of TV time earned. All three, now adults with kids of their own, are avid readers and only watch TV on special occasions.
Parents set the example. Teachers should be the ones that feed the desires to learn. Stupid should not be allowed in the classroom.
Well, I’m afraid that if stupid weren’t allowed in the classroom, none of us could enter. We’re all stupid on some points, it’s just that our personal stupidities make perfect sense to us.
That is one of the motivations for this blog, and why I try to take a moderate course. We’re all crazy, and everyone else’s insanity is obvious. But for some reason, our own insanity seems like obvious logic to us. How do we get people to open our minds, to look at our own nuts & bolts without self-service and pre-conceived conclusions? I have some thoughts, but I hope we can explore it together.
Principal isn’t spelled “principle.” I’m not sure where the idea came from that teachers want government and unions to control education. The cry I hear lately more than anything is “Just let me teach!” Our unions do NOT control education. Government, on the other hand, plays a huge role in the educational system from the top ranks to the classroom. I’m pretty sure that so many teachers would not have shown up at the capital building in protest of measures they felt would damage children as well as good teachers.
. The teachers I know teach by encouraging students, despite the evaluation process that includes student testing and how high students can raise their scores. Anyone who can possibly think that would be a good idea has not experienced what it is actually like to be in the classroom. Unless you’re there, you don’t know.
Moderate course is the right way, I believe. I don’t know if we will ever get there. Denigrating a group of people doesn’t make progress with anything. Open minds are needed, but they won’t open with insults or preconceived prejudices. Letting go of those and listening to each other speak openly and honestly may get more results.
I agree completely. Almost anyway; I am hoping that through this blog we can get people to understand (if not know) without teaching. As I hope I am making clear with this blog, I see three major problems in education: 1) we have not significantly reconsidered education since the medieval; 2) we don’t listen to the teachers who, as in the Petraeus/Nagl doctrine, are the grunts on the ground; and 3) because of those two, we produce a population who are trained not to think.
And for this last, I disagree with some observers, that people are incapable of thought. That is the great tragedy, I suspect that everyone is capable of thought. We live in a culture of intellectual abuse that trains people not to think.
One of the bad trends in the past 30+ years in Education is the addition of more non-teaching staff. This has diluted the resources available for the actual in-classroom teaching. Administrators do NOT teach our children; we need less of them.
I agree as well. I’m sorry if I was too preachy. I suppose I’m a bit sensitive because of the onslaught of blame teachers have borne compliments of legislation, social media, and uninformed public. I also suspect everyone is capable of thought; I fight the battle!
I don’t think it was preachy at all. To the contrary, I think we need more teachers speaking up, and some judicious spleen here and there might help.
While working with teachers, I slowly became aware of how powerful teachers could be, if you spoke as a group. I think there are several reasons this has not happened. One, I think we don’t have a vocabulary and a set of ideas to express the real problems in education (one of the things I hope to address here); for instance, I think teachers’ unions scream about pay, partly because the important goals of education don’t fit on bumperstickers. Negotiating simple, simply measured goals are easier; dollars are easy to demand, respect and autonomy are really hard. Second, I think good teachers put everything into their work, and don’t have much time left over for fighting with bureaucrats whose priorities (particularly compared to the vital importance of teaching) are so petty. And third, teachers are cowed. The constant, grinding bureaucratic victories, and new professional opportunities for women, have drained many of the best, and fiercest, teachers from the classroom. So I worry that great teachers may be dwindling, and those that remain feel besieged.
Those are my observations. But I’m not in the classroom, so I will certainly not be offended if you set me straight.
I can totally relate and agree I was forced to
read in high school ….even during the summer we had required reading to even be allowed in the fall class. Well …..I can honestly say…and ashamed , that the last whole book I’ve read was “Huckleberry Finn” in high school., many moons ago. I now only read magazines and short articles. I have no desire to read a lengthy book at allllllllll.
You’re right. Intellectual abuse is the foundation of education.
It’s gratifying to see you home schooling your children. My private thoughts, as yet unspoken to my daughter and son-in-law, center around wondering if I can arrange my own affairs to assume that role.
Otherwise, I like to think of Education as a bell curve with a short, swift up-slope representing pre-K preparation in the home, the body of the curve representing publicly acquired education, and the long, long tail representing the value added in the home.
That’s where all the value and profit is in business–that long tail — and it’s the same way (as I see it) with Education. While that would seem to translate into a technical or professional education after high school that isn’t necessarily what I’m thinking.
Life is SO much more than being able to machine something to a tolerance of .00001 or writing a legal brief or, for that matter, saving some biped’s life. All those things have value and necessity but they don’t, standing alone, constitute a life or address the mysteries of existence.
I had an English professor at UL, an Episcopalian priest IIRC, who used to wave his hand dismissively in the direction of the rest of the campus and announce that “none of what they’re teaching matters.” LOL. (It was deeply offensive at the time because I was in the process of memorizing a Calculus textbook (JFC) but I didn’t say anything. Deep down I knew he was right then and he’s still right.
Yes, and it goes back to my comments about compassion as a luxury. In the past, we didn’t have time to educate our children right, there were barely enough resources to get them raised to do it in the accepted way.