What Has Happened to Education?

I read more and more articles and posts by professionals and parents (who are the top professionals when it comes to their own children) about how something important is being stolen from our young ones:  their childhood.

On top of removing the critical freedom to develop through unstructured play, we thrust too many kids into learning environments that kill their curiousity and creativity.

Photo by Mike P

Photo by Mike P

When are we going to learn that the standard classroom learning environment is failing too many children?

The problem is not a new one.  I am married to a man who struggled through standard schooling, even “back then” before everything was about testing rather than learning. According to his mother, “He was the only kid I knew who finished the test before everyone else, had doodles all over the margins, obviously trying to stay busy, and ended up talking to someone else who finally finished, and then spent the last half of the class period out in the hall because of it.  Oh, and he aced the test.”  He himself says the thing he remembers most about kindergarten was the hours he spent shut in a dark closet with a piano.

So much for education. The prime reason I decided to homeschool my boys was to keep them away from that kind of damage.

My niece is another example.  She dropped out of school, largely to escape bullying, when she was a sophomore.  When she finally got her act together and wanted to be a nurse, she was told the hoops she had to jump through to get there.  NO ONE in the education system believed she had a shot.  She had one of the higher scores in the state on her entrance exam.

Kristen Lamb’s blog post today, Common Core and Vegan Zombies–Confessions of an ADD Mother made me laugh and cry.  I feel for her and her lovely son and rail against this new age that thinks children have to be adults before they’ve had a chance to play.

We have to stop insisting on cookie-cutter children.  When allowed to be individuals, learning at their own pace and in whatever way is best suited to their nature, they become amazing human beings with talents that can benefit the world in ways we probably can’t even imagine.

Along these lines, over the next few days I’d like to share a story with you.  I wrote this several years ago, and Kristen’s blog post made me dig it out of my archives.

Do You Recognize This Family 
First Published on the Women & Family forum at MSN Women Online, 1998

I’d like to introduce three people to you:  the youngest son of four surviving children, the boy’s mother and his father.  See if they remind you of someone you know.

The Son

With blonde hair and blue eyes, the boy was the image of his mother who adored him.  He was a very happy baby, gurgling and laughing, and rarely crying.  Even as an infant he seemed to be very single-minded.  If something caught his attention, he was wholly devoted to it, until he either captured it, figured out how it worked, or made it work the way he wanted it to.

For this little boy the sole purpose behind learning to talk was to ask questions. He never stopped asking them. Because the three infants that had been closest to him in age had died shortly after birth, all his siblings were much older than he. Therefore, he spent most of his time with his mother or by himself.

Yet his time alone was never wasted. He loved to play in the yard under the kitchen window of their house on the hill.  This served his mother, who could watch him from the kitchen while she worked there, and it served him well, for he was fascinated by the bustling town below, watching the people go about their daily business.

As he grew older, he would go down to the town to explore and ask more question. He enjoyed playing with scrap wood at his father’s lumberyard, building toy towns, and making sketches of the sights he saw around him. He learned much about his world by looking, watching, asking questions and experimenting.

His curiousity burned so intensely that it often led to trouble. Once he fell into the chaff at a grain elevator and nearly suffocated. Another time the locals had to fish him out of the canal. At six years old, he wanted to see what fire would do and ended up burning down his father’s barn and putting the entire town in danger of going up in flames.  Despite the fact that he never intended to misbehave–only to experiment and discover–he became known as a problem child.

His entry into school did not help.  He had been held out due to sickness and started well after he turned seven.  For a child used to learning on his own as he moved through his day in exploration, sitting still at school was sheer misery. His teacher believed in education through rote memorization.  This was particularly difficult for the boy because there was no room for him to ask his burning questions.  Within months he had dropped to the bottom of his class.

Then he overheard his teacher say that something was wrong with his mind and he was not able to learn.  In a fit of anger he left the school, vowing never to return.

His Mother

We’ll get to her tomorrow.

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2 responses to “What Has Happened to Education?

  1. Pingback: Or…Why Has the System Not Been Fixed Yet? | Carolyn Dekat

  2. Pingback: Involved Parents Make the Difference | Carolyn Dekat

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