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 then make the second group feel like failures.
We have these 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 the first grade his class was forced to do 3-minute math drills. The kids couldn’t go to recess until they got them all right. He is already very conscientious about his work, and the stress made him an emotional wreck. So now he avoids math.
It’s intellectual abuse.
Who thinks these things up? What sort of person puts 5 and 6 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, and then her school system started forcing her to read books. She grew to hate it. Again, it is intellectual abuse. Her natural, in-born desire to learn was destroyed.
I have repeatedly talked about how useless our paradigms of education are, that almost no one remembers what they learned, and that those of us who do remember are not so much products of our schools, but survivors.
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 do, and worse, what they do naturally.
What if we could guarantee that every child loved to read? That they might not suffer through lectures on the Truman Doctrine, they aren’t impressed into solving matrices, and 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 that every child brings to the first day of school, at a tender 4 or 5 years of age – the curiosity that is essential to lifelong learning, the curiosity that is the highest virtue of education – were left undamaged? That our children remained how they started out, curious?
When you look around at what we currently produce after 13 years of institutional misery and intellectual abuse, and then consider that if we taught them less, but they wanted to continue learning, think how much further along our world would be.
The first rule of medicine is Primum no nocere: ‘First, do no harm.’
It needs to become the first rule of education, too.
Photo courtesy of OddSock on Flickr.com.