Humans want to learn new things. We are curious and innovative by nature. We thrive when we learn new things. Today’s school system, regrettably, is killing that curiosity and replacing it with force-fed facts that are completely useless. When are we going to start the difficult, but necessary, work of changing our schools?
Why do we teach so differently in school compared to extracurricular activities? If your kid wants to learn how to play basketball, you sign them up for a basketball team. On the first practice, you would expect your kid to get to dribble a basketball. If the coach would come out with a book with the history of basketball and another one with all the rules, and expect your child to read them and learn them by heart, and then maybe half a year from now, you can touch an actual basketball, you’d think the coach was crazy. You’d object and say that this is unacceptable.
Yet, we accept this kind of education when it comes to school. There’s no time for individual projects based on the students’ interests. There’s no room for problem-solving that isn’t strictly following the school plan. We are so busy cramming information into our students that we stub out their curiosity and creativity. If a student dares to ask why the teacher rarely has enough time or energy to fully engage. If you let one student ask why you can bet that several others will follow. Once you go down that rabbit hole, you’re not going to meet the curriculum criteria for that semester. The teachers know this, so they make sure that not too many questions are asked.
The teachers are aware that their worth is measured on how many students pass the test. On how many students know the order of the kings and presidents. There’s no time to discuss the values of those kings and presidents and the implications of their ruling. That kind of knowledge is not measured as easily as the order and dates. So in an effort to meet a pressed time schedule, the teachers are forced to test only for easily measured facts.
In today’s world where all the information you’ll ever need is just a click away, such simple knowledge of facts is useless. If the kids only get a lot of dots but no means to connect them, we’re not preparing them for a future to come.
The public school system came about because the industry needed compliment workers who could follow instructions. The need for blue collar workers have decreased substantially, yet we are still educating all kids to become just that. While our society has changed completely in the last decades, the school system hasn’t been able to keep up. It’s still stuck in its ways.
We now know from research that brain development is highly individual. That just because two kids are the same age doesn’t mean that they are on the same level in their development. Yet, our only means of sorting kids for school is age based. When the kids start, their capacity for coping with school varies. In today’s system, everyone is expected to learn the same things, in the same way, at the same pace. But kids don’t work that way. Humans don’t work that way. You’ll end up with a lot of kids that are falling behind and a lot of kids that are not challenged enough.
“Is this going to be on the test?”
The most common question asked in school. What if, instead, we build an education system that’s based on curiosity and a longing to know more? What if we trust that the kids really want to learn, not just for a test but for life? If we want this to happen, we need to stop rewarding them for what’s just on the exam.
We need to build a school that nourishes children’s innate curiosity and imagination. Only then can we prepare them for a future that we know nothing about.
Photo by JC Dela Cuesta on Unsplash
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