In an earlier post, I talked about how certain "education reformists" malign traditional education as being
based on a 19th century Prussian model, or an early 20th century factory model, designed to foster obedience to political, military, or capitalist authority.These people, I noted, are conflating political, military, and workplace authorities with educational authorities, and obedience to political, military, and workplace authorities with obedience to educational authorities.
There are some things, I noted, that contribute to this conflation:
all that lining up, all that waiting in silence, all that being yelled at for fidgeting during class or losing track of your belongings or daring to play tag or climb trees during recess.But other requirements--requirements like not disrupting the class, and attending to the educational authorities (competent teachers, decent textbooks)--I argue, are essential to learning.
Now a recent NPR segment on new book, "Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children," has reminded me of two things I left out--things that authors Roberta Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek join other would-be reformers in disparaging:
--sitting in rows
--spitting out facts
If Rip Van Winkle came back, there's only one institution he would recognize: "Oh! That's a school. Kids are still sitting in rows, still listening to the font of wisdom at the front of the classroom."
We're training kids to do what computers do, which is spit back facts.How quickly people forget the virtues of row seating--even as they sit in rows in movie theaters or, say, during TED talks in which education gurus disparage row seating. Desks in rows is the only way to arrange a classroom so that a dozen plus kids can easily attend to the teacher, see what's being written on the blackboard, and take notes while using a hard surface (the surface of their desks) rather than their laps.
And how quickly people forget what it takes to learn things. "Spitting out" facts, while it should never be the be-all and end-all of education, is a key component of learning bodies of knowledge. The task of retrieving and articulating facts, when implemented well by competent teachers, is not a meaningless, rote repetition of disembodies chunks of information, but a way to strengthen long term memory of meaningful systems of integrated knowledge--knowledge that is crucial to personal success and societal progress.
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek compares the challenge of raising children to climate change.
What we do with little kids today will matter in 20 years. If you don't get it right, you will have an unlivable environment. That's the crisis I see.I agree.