So, if I were to write everything in my head about education today, it would 1) be a jumbled mess; and 2) be longer than the 700 words I was advised to keep my posts to. So, just a few thoughts for now.
The SOLs … or whatever the equivalent measure of No Child Left Behind laws in your state .. are far more damaging to students than helpful. Students are learning to memorize a lot of information, and are not being taught to process information very much at all.
(Good teachers, and there are many, keep the ability to process and explore alive as much as they can, but it can be an uphill battle. But they are fighting for your children, against every standardized test, with everything they have … trust me, they are …).
When my kids first started public school (after I homeschooled them their early years), I was substituting as an art teacher at their elementary school. One of the other teachers told me how, before the SOLs, there had been a teacher who would teach all about penguins. She loved penguins. Like, loved them. She’d teach about their mating habits, their ecological niche, their interactions, their discovery, and their role in popular culture. And with the requirements of the SOLs, that ended.
Which is a shame.
Ok, so students don’t, for the most part, need to learn about penguins. But they do need to learn that if you love a subject, you can explore it from a thousand angles, see how it fits into the world, and learn a lot in the meantime.
When my kids and I were homeschooling (unschooling …a lovely subset of homeschooling in which you follow the inclination of the learners rather than a dogmatic concept of ‘what should be taught’), my son, being a boy, took a hankering to disasters. For instance, the Hindenburg. So we studied the Hindenburg. We studied Nazi germany, and helium vs. hydrogen, and airships, and the history of flying, and the role of the news agencies in propagandizing information. We blew up a fake ‘Hindenburg’ at his birthday party and yes, eyebrows suffered. In other words, we studied a lot more than the Hindenburg. (Including first aid … 🙁 ).
Kids don’t need to learn to access and memorize information. They all know ‘google’ as a verb, and have their entire lives. Information at their fingertips is all they’ve ever known. No, kids need to learn to process things, to get excited and inspired, to find something they love and explore every aspect of it, from every angle.
They need to learn nuances … about penguins, or the Hindenburg, or the joy of pie-making. It doesn’t matter … what matters is to re-discover the love of discovery. Because therein lies the greatness of our country, not in 94% of Virginia students knowing the history of Pocahontas, and when Williamsburg was founded, and what the capital of Iowa is. No offense Iowans, you have a beautiful state. But seriously, your capital … we can find it on google. As with any other bare, raw, unprocessed fact. What we cannot find on google, and what students need to learn, is passion. Learning to be passionate about a subject; that would be an education to be proud of.