“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.”
– Anatole France
Ted Talks Sir Ken Robinson Do schools kill creativity?
Watching Ken Robinson’s talk got me thinking about education and schooling. Hence the graph and rankings of high school teacher salaries in various countries in my previous post. We have all journeyed through the school system, whether we were first students, later to go onto becoming teachers or the groundsman or janitor or a member of the Parent Teachers Association (PTA). We have all had numerous experiences, some good, some great, some bad, some horrendous, some life changing. We all have an opinion on the school system. Subjects that your parents were taught might be the same as when you went through but the content will be completely different. Some subjects are now considered obsolete and dropped from the curriculum, others on trend are brought into the fold causing panic among staff who have to up-skill in order to teach the subject with their freshly learned knowledge. Some subjects are now thankfully available to both sexes. The jargon may have changed since you were in a uniform or not, but the basics have not changed. We go to school to learn an education, to run and jump around, to learn how to communicate with others in our same age group and get a piece of paper at the end that lets you know what you may or may not be able to do next. Can education be improved? Of course. Can our educational journey be more crafted to our own individual needs than those of a group? For sure.
When you were 5 years old what technology or gadgets were in your house to ease the load? Did you have a colour television, a kinetic watch, a microwave oven, a cellphone, automatic transmission car, an automatic vacuum cleaners? If you grow up with a technology you are familiar with it. It’s there. You know instinctively how to use it because you have watched someone else use it before you or you have had time to play or fiddle with it yourself.
My brother and I had a brilliant idea to get our grandmother a microwave oven to help her out in the kitchen when she was still living in her own home. Grandad had already passed away and she was living independently. She was beginning to find cooking a challenge. Our idea was a microwave oven as a solution. We thought that that would be safer than leaving something on the stove to potentially burn down the house. We picked it out, we brought it around. We proudly showed her how to use it. She smiled. We left. It never got used. The intentions were good but the idea was wrong. She had never used a microwave her entire life and she didn’t feel comfortable to cook a different way so late in life. We could have bought one earlier for her but I think the outcome would have been the same. Our ideas of cooking and comfort were different and she was beyond the concept of new technology to help. Sometimes we enjoy standing at a stove and stirring a pot, it gives us time to think, we cook two things at once, ideas and food. Things were done from scratch with my grandmother. There were no shortcuts in her life. To expect someone to change their way of thinking so late was naive on our parts, but we showed we cared the best way we could. It’s the thought that counts, right? That’s debatable.
Why is it that we have to sit in a classroom with our peers and learn at the same pace as others. Why must we sit in a classroom? Why must we all learn English at 9am on a Monday morning, and again Tuesday afternoon at 2pm. Why do we have to be with so many people? Why do we have to learn Mathematics? Because. Why can’t we do what we like when we like? Well that’s the way it is? Sound familiar.
Montessori schooling is freer in concept and has been around since 1907 in Italy, introduced into the US in 1914, but actively embraced from the 1960s. Sweden has schools without classrooms. See article here for the look, and here for their concepts. Is this the way of the future? Do we need physical schools at all? Why can’t we learn from home at our own pace? Distance learning has been around for a long time, people in isolated areas had no alternative, there were no schools. Students would receive packets in the mail and the parents would help with their children’s lessons. Using the kitchen or the home as the classroom. Communication with the teacher was through mail. Internet speeds up distance learning, communication can be via email, Skype, or other software. The pace is set by you, the organisation is up to you. Will this be the norm? We can be studying Latin at university level, while at the same time doing Mathematics at the same level as your peers, you can be doing anything! Your imagination is your only limit.
When we have limitless choices how do we decide what we want to do or what to study? I suppose we must follow our heart. Go where the interest takes us. We need to do the basics. Reading, writing and mathematics. And then after that we can explore these areas further or run off at tangents into biology, music, mechanics, languages or art history. We cannot form an opinion based on nothing. We need knowledge to form one. The wider the base the sturdier the tree. We need to consume knowledge to make better decisions. Curiosity is a trait that needs to be cherished and let loose. The inner child also needs to be brought out and sat on our knees and explore the world together. Why should we hide the inner child under the stairs. Why can’t we giggle and run and shout when we find something that tickles our fancy. Why have we confused the meaning of growing up and maturity. Why must we let our minds become rigid? We can still be free in our minds, we can be young at heart at 80. The inner child knows no limit, why should we?
Our joints may become stiff and creaky as we get older but we can encourage movement with exercise, swimming, walking or other. So too can our minds become stiff and rigid as we mature. We don’t have to be that way. We can remove the layers of useless rules we have placed on ourselves and begin to run in our minds like the carefree child we once were. Maturity means fully developed, ripe or reaching a due if you use the financial term. It also means to be able to take care of yourself in all that it encompasses, emotional health, spiritual well being, worldly, financially and legally. It is a life long journey and one that is not determined by a certain age unless we are talking about legal ages for driving, marriage medical decisions.
May we never sacrifice curiosity in the name of maturity. Long live curiosity! Stop thinking about the cat!
All The Same – Sick Puppies