The article on Homeschooling has provoked a wonderful debate by both sides and I invite you to read the interesting insights given by the mother who chose this option for her child. But now I would like to focus on the school system itself which has become semi-paralyzed by so many restrictions emanated from NCLB (No Child Left Behind) legislation. We spend more time testing and teaching to the test than we do on instruction; teachers are hobbled by rules and regulations, some of them totally unnecessary, and by the fear of being sued by the parents if we “punish” the child excessively, a word that has as many definitions as there are people.
The main goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – men who are creative, inventive and discoverers” (Jean Piaget)
Yes, the quote by one of my compatriots, Piaget, embodies his vision of education. He was born in 1896 and still was able to revolutionize our understanding of how the child learns. If he could see the state of modern education, whether private or public in the United States, he might very well agree with me that we have managed to stifle creativity by placing emphasis on memorizing (or teaching to the test). Rote learning has a place in education: the multiplication table is a good example, or the memorization of a poem to recite in front of the class. It may even improve the complexity of the brain, a sign of higher intelligence. But “inventors and discoverers” want much more than simple repetition; they want the chance to change the poem, or the equation, or the formula, or the sentence, or the diction.
We need first of all larger budgets for our public schools, in spite of the naysayers and would be education gurus who decry more investment in this field. They say more money will not produce better results by our students; I say, it’s not how much we spend but what we spend it in. A simple example: A school has too many failing students, but doesn’t have the funds to pay for after school tutorials and transportation. So, let’s get the money and hire expert tutors to work with small groups of kids who struggle in class. It will make a difference, I guarantee it!
Still, forcing students to respond like conditioned animals doesn’t lead to better education (the famous bell). Give each academic area the time they need to create new knowledge that can be transferred to other situations. That ability, the transfer of knowledge, is the key to successful learning and yet we wait till the end of the month or the marking period to test our youngsters by using memory more than creativity. While I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I know that a change is needed, a fundamental one.