If we realize that children are social creatures, like the rest of us, we should also see that schools tend to destroy that socialization by turning cooperative learning into a competition. If children were indeed Free to Learn, as described by Peter Gray in his book by that name, they would more than likely find ways to explore and learn their environments as they continued to grow, and again, most likely, it would involve cooperating. Instead we have competing schools that promote bullying. Every school needs to address this issue and you can find some fundamental rules here.
The world of education today is controlled by analysis. We have analyzed learning using lab rats learning a maze and found that what works are rewards and repetition–so we use smiley faces and more homework. We have analyzed what our children have learned with endless testing and now our teachers mostly teach to the tests. And we have analyzed how well we are doing with other countries, and find out the answer: not too well. Our response is usually to double down on the analysis.
What we don’t see is that our children share the ability of every other organism in this world to read, grapple with, try to control, or in some way adapt in a healthy way to their environments. They do this very well up to the age of 5 or 6 when they go to school.
In the process they use and develop neural connections in their brains, and the ones used the most turn into superhighways as they are myelinated. These are the highways that they use to play with and explore their environments. They are not the ones used when a child is told to sit down and pay attention. That’s a large part of why ADHD is a ‘school’ diagnosis.
School systems, like in Finland, where experiential learning is continued through primary school, and where teachers are chosen from the highest levels of their graduating classes (and rewarded accordingly) are the countries with the best results on international testing.
Testing is a threat to both the teachers and the students, especially when the test is used to judge the student, teacher, school, system, or state; and it leads too often to the deleterious effects of gaming the system, where students, teachers and administrators cheat or manipulate the test and sometimes the test takers to create better results. Teachers should be able to test for how well a child is learning, but it should be only for testing, and revising when necessary, the methods used to teach. Click here for an update on this and what a Chinese raised educator has to say about testing here and there.
The question for all of us is: What can we do with our children, with our local and state school boards, and as we vote to correct the orientation of our schools.
Seeing differently is the first step.
To get an grasp on the big picture of how to start seeing differently, visit our “Idea Behind This” page.
Thinking anayltically has affected many facets of our society. Read more about the consequences of analytical thinking in the following areas: