Updated: May 29
I think about the Dr. Seuss book If I Ran the Zoo when a child decides what they would do if they were in charge and I wonder what would I do if I were put in charge of something like the education system.
This is a system that was created many years ago, to train children to be able to do factory work. So much has changed in the world - but not in the education system.
So what would I change if I Ran the School?
We live in an information age yet the schools are still teaching information. Classes offer content, which students memorize for tests filling their heads with information that can so quickly and easily be achieved with one little search on the internet. We don't need classes that simply fill heads with information. We need courses that help kids learn to apply knowledge to the important things in life.
My 3 R's for education would be Respect, Responsibility and Real-Life. I would like to see courses that teach about leadership skills, that use references from history and modern day as examples, that showed scenarios students could connect with and therefore learn the importance of the skill.
I wonder what kind of world classes on Empathy, Kindness and Understanding could build? When we teach kids to apply what they know to the situations they face in life we give them the power they need to grow, the skills they need to get through and the knowledge they need to help themselves, and others.
I taught a class a few times based on my unit study on Cryptozoology. Although the content of the course was about monsters and strange creatures like Bigfoot, the role of the course was to build critical thinking skills. The importance was not on the content, the information about the monsters, but on analyzing the information and using it to help get a better understanding, to question the evidence and to realize that not all information comes from truth. We used reports of sightings of creatures like Loch Ness Monster and asked questions about the situations, what was going on in the world at the time, what might these people have seen instead. We learned that monster sightings increased when monster movies started to be played at theatres. We looked at how photos and stories can be manipulated, misinterpreted or taken out of context. We discussed what this connection might mean.
During the course, we never defined whether these creatures really did exist, after all scientists haven't fully determined that themselves. What we defined was the need to look at information from different angles, to ask questions about 'evidence' and to critically look at all sides to help understand and help better explain. If kids have a critical thinking skill it can help them wade through all the misinformation the world offers, help them think twice about opportunities and even understand other people's views on life. That is a powerful education!
You can download the cryptozoology unit study from the Free Resources in Quite a Character Classroom.
We may be creating this as a video course - let us know if that would interest you!
I think the focus on education is not about preparing kids for the career world but on helping kids learn who they are. It isn't so much about what we know but on how we learn, how we can be inspired to continuously learn and how we can apply what we learn to all we need. Marks should not be determined on how many facts a child can absorb but how, what they learn can help them grow. It isn't about preparing them for the future but on allowing them to be who they are now. Education should not be measured across a classroom but offered so that everyone can apply it to their uniqueness, to their own lives. Facts can easily be found out, but how those facts can help us create a wonderful world is something that needs more application. In school we learn to accept what the teacher says as right (and that is strengthened with testing). But what we need to learn is to think for ourselves, to learn how things fit into our real-life and to apply the knowledge in the way that is best for us.
Now obviously the education system cannot be fixed overnight, and one blog post won't make a big change to it, but what I hope, is that my thoughts and ideas can spark some conversation and to allow some leeway for kids that may be struggling in the system. If we understand that the system is not really what kids need for a 'good education' we can relax a bit when we are told our kids are struggling in the system, or if tests come back with low grades. We can offer encouragement to kids, no matter how the system says they are doing, so they feel that they are successful, that they don't need to compare themselves with others in the class because they are each unique in how they learn and how they think. I would love to see an education system that focuses on lifting children up, encouraging their individuality and teaching them how each of them is already an important part of our world. For now, I guess I just have to hope we can be aware of the difficulties and supplement with our own forms of encouragement and recognition.
Education means inspiring someone’s mind, not just filling their head.
— Katie Lusk