Hrm, School.

I’ve been thinking a lot about education (obviously).
i was introduced to TED Talks by a friend, and we watched a lecture by Sir Ken Robinson on how schools kill creativity, and then another encouraging an education revolution.
One of the points he made that has been loitering in the back of my mind was this notion that we group kids in school by age, and no other common factor, really.

Sir Ken Robinson, making critical sense.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, since a friend mentioned that he was one of the oldest people in his class, and that he frequently found subjects like maths easier. It occurred to me that as one of the youngest people in my class, maths had always seemed unnecessarily difficult. Perhaps this is all just based in the fact that brains and interests are not actually as age-dependent as we all like to think they are. The fact that kids are put into school groups by age seems liable to produce an unfortunate side effect whereby they will believe that they aren’t good at something and won’t or can’t ever be good at it as a natural part of the way they are made.

If I hadn’t been a nerd,
I would have given
this answer.

However, I would like to place a counterpoint to that argument – I was terrible at maths when I was younger. It never made sense to me. Now, when I sit in a maths class (as I did today – year 3 higher maths, 14 year old kids), looking at algebra, it all makes perfect sense. This is not to say I would be able to do it perfectly, or really be very good at it. Normally, I’d think “It’s just because I’ve learned it before, and I’m older, so… ” So what? My brain is more developed? I doubt it. I’m starting to think that I can just handle abstract topics like algebra better now that I’m older than I could when I was 14. I’m sure it also has something to do with improved methods of teaching the subject.

A side effect to the whole age-dependent schooling also has to be that people will think that education ends when they graduate from whatever institution they go to. They’ve got it wrong – schooling ends. Education is a life-long process. Isn’t it Mark Twain who said “Don’t let schooling interfere with your Education”? I’d hang that quote up in my classroom, big enough for everyone to see. I hate the notion that some kid might think, “Man, I suck at history. This doesn’t make any sense and I’ll never get it, and once I’m outta here, I’m not ever doing anything with it ever again.” Because that student might turn out to be amazing at grasping certain concepts once they’ve gotten some…thing under their belts that allows them a wider brainscope. It might be age, or experience, or even just becoming interested in current politics/state of the world. All of these things, and doubtlessly many more, would make a student a great historian. They just might not think so, because they’re crap at writing a 5 paragraph essay at the age of 15.

It’s a tragic potential result of schools. I have no idea how I’d try to fight it in my classrooms, but I do think Ken Robinson makes a very good point that teachers and education policy-makers need to emphasize creativity and creative thinking, as well as a creative approach to the classroom. I would add that schools, teachers and parents should also emphasize patience with their students/children. It seems a relatively forgotten virtue these days. A kid who cannot sit still, or understand why 3x+ 5 = 7x-4 gives the answer it does, or cannot write a 5 paragraph essay, is not incapable of anything. It might take them longer. They might need to do something different in order to ‘get it’, but they can, I am convinced, do it.
If I can understand that maths problem (and solve it!), it doesn’t matter that I only learned when I was 24.  At least I learned it.

Maybe I’m too radical about education to work in school. How do I reconcile my loathing for standardized testing and rigid learning with my desire to be in a classroom, sharing knowledge and earning it back from my students?

This entry was posted in critical thought, criticism, opinion, school. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Hrm, School.

  1. Kent says:

    You've left yourself wide open to unsolicited lessons on single nucleotide polymorphisms in expanded microsatellites and their role on prosocial behavior in mammals.Wide open.

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