I remember when I did my masters… we had one aspect where they wanted us to explore best practices in education, visit top models and talk to the experts… I noted 2 things..
- I was NOT going to go look at the best model of a failed system.. instead, I went to a place where kids had succeeded beyond expectations… and
- gasp and shock.. I talked to the experts.. you know.. the kids! imagine that…
Kids are far more aware and savvy than teachers and schools give them credit for- and you’d be amazed at how much they will share when they know you are actually listening and not paying lip service.
By the way – the school I visited for my Masters project was Simon’s Rock in Mass. It is/was the first early college model in the country. Students usually enroll after tenth grade, and complete their associates degree and receive a High School diploma at that same time. Note that this is an actual college, with professors teaching from some of the most prestigious universities around the country. When I asked a History Professor if she had to scale her curriculum because she was working with younger students, she noted that she did. BUT, it was scaled UP. She noted that the younger students challenged her far more than students from an ivy league school where she had taught previously. Imagine that!
Now, lest anyone think this is a cherry-picked population and that they were privileged or highly gifted learners.. they might have been.. but what follows can readily refute and prejudice against the fullest potential of younger scholars…
This snippet should give pause to anyone who applauds the merits of the public education system.. and I have this paper, tucked away somewhere, if anyone is interested..I may be slightly off on specifics, but the overall gist is correct and accurate.
There was a pilot program, I think somewhere SE, US. Urban setting, parents probably not graduated HS, kids from inner city/ low income etc.. meaning- not likely to graduate HS, and college not even in the paradigm. They took a group of 9th graders, and jumped them over FOUR YEARS of HS, and put them directly into college. Same classes as regular college freshmen. By the end of the first year.. NOT ONE had dropped out or failed.. and they were out performing the traditional freshmen…
I hold a Masters Degree- in curriculum and instruction/education… by which I can now explain exactly why I hated school, and what is wrong with the system.. in pedagogical terms.. I could have said the same thing.. using smaller words.. 20 years ago….
There are some incredible student centered and problem based/authentic learning models out there.. but our education system is essentially about control, conformity and consumerism… I guess whole language decided the 3 C’s were easier to get to than the letter R…
It has been proven that children’s inherent and deep creativity PLUMMETS when they enter school. All it takes is one kid, looking over at his artwork complaining that it’s all wrong and the sky shouldn’t be orange, and creativity shuts down. This is further suppressed by teachers who “insist” that they should be colouring INSIDE the lines ( rather than wherever the hell they want:)… Most children never recover their creativity. Those that do, generally go on in artistic pursuits of some kind.
Control – what is the percentage of kids in our school systems on medications? we coop up children’s natural energy.. and we are so caffeine addicted and strung out, that we, as adults, do not KNOW what good energy looks or feels like.. and as such- we attempt to stifle that in our children. Education seems to be more about making children docile and malleable, than it is about working with them where they are.
I will give that as the result of a BROKEN food system, thank you Big Ag and Big Pharma- our kids are walking psychotic banshees much of the time. STILL- is NO ONE going to take responsibility for the health and well-being of our young, and relish in that natural vitality.. following that flow of energy where it leads, rather than forcing it to the pace tempo and direction of a teacher..? btw- for anyone curious, check out the alpha program as part of the Shelburne school in Shelburne, VT. Or- any Waldorf Educational Program.
Conformity – let’s start with the very model that most teachers, especially of the youngest students, look like, sound like etc. how many teachers are punk, or goth, or have mohawks? No. They are mostly cut from the jock, prep or geek/nerd wannabe cool mold. This person is the one single strongest influence on a young child outside of the parents, and spends 6-8 hours every day with them. This wouldn’t be so critical if teachers truly included all personality types.
But even teachers who have gone through training are often shocked at their own gender biases. Statistically, a teacher will give a girl student less than a second to respond when called on. If the girl doesn’t have the answer, she will quickly say its okay, and call on another student. By comparison, the teacher will give a boy an average of FIVE seconds, allowing him time to think and consider and come up with an answer. SO, what does that tell us from the youngest age, who has more value. The boys also get far more time and attention– again, note that these statistics are coming from teachers who have gone through equity training. Imagine what other classrooms might look like, ever so subtly?
SO, if there is bias between the sexes.. just imagine how much bias there must exist between less obvious demographic distinctions…What message is that sending our kids- who know a hell of a lot more, and are aware of a lot more than we credit them for– what message about which kind of kid they want to be– that receives attention, what kid is low on the pecking order..
Now, take that conformity up a few years.. and kids learn how to separate peers out based on clothes, styles, sports affiliations etc.. grouping into social cliques with various degrees of social status.. who is deferred to, who is invisible, etc…
No kid wants to be invisible, or a target- so they stress to have the right clothes in order to be, or LOOK like everyone else.. in polite social terms.. to fit in. Why aren’t we raising kids to select for diversity? To try to be as unique as they can be and VALUE those things that make them stand out?
Consumerism – kids are the largest demographic spending, disposable income. they don’t have the same kinds of financial responsibilities, bills, taxes etc.. their money goes into trivial status objects, from ipods, ipads, dvd’s video games and mobile phones and the latest clothes trends.. for more on this subject I recommend the book My Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
I would love to work at building a different educational model…and one that inherently fosters community, civic responsibility and stewardship of the environment/sustainability.. and I prefer working with the non-traditional learners.. they are far more innovative and will be the ones to create solutions to today’s global problems…
What other models do you think will emerge as the result of todays social media? Information is readily available. Maybe in the near future diplomas and degrees will be supplanted by organic portfolios that demonstrate unique skills and abilities. What do you think education will look like in the future? Will the entrenched system become worse, or will something new emerge?
I am an Education Specialist, Health Coach and Author. I work with aspects of the teachings I have learned from Andean shamanic and cosmology, to health, nutrition and education. Everything is energy. Energy must flow. Like water, when it does not flow, it stagnates and is not healthy. These techniques help your life to flow. I have been initiated into many of the ancient lineages and learned ceremonies, rites of passage and healing techniques. I have worked as a healer and done workshops and taught some of these aspects – passing the teachings on.
Dancing in Your Bubble : ancient teaching, modern healing
Natural Support for Alzheimer’s
Getting a Handle on Happy : find and fix causes of stress and depression
The Naturally Smarter Kid : a parent’s guide to helping kids succeed in school and life
Cafe of the Hungry Ghosts : behind the veil of ordinary – a paranormal-ish fiction book