Monday, November 15, 2010

elementary education

by Michael Dymmoch

Young children are nearly always highly imaginative. They need watchful parents because they do things no sane adult would even think of trying. Unless their parents are hyper-anxious, young kids are fearless because they haven’t yet learned what to fear. They’re inventive because they haven’t learned the prescribed uses for stuff. They try things out without preconceptions. They think of different uses than those intended by the manufacturer. (Highly successful companies encourage their employees to do this, too—to "think outside the box.")

Then kids are sent to school where they learn the “correct way” to do things. That’s what school is for. (To teach people to be good citizens and do their jobs the “right way” “because I said so.”) But most schools have a one-size-fits-all approach and a “No-child-Left-Behind” method of measuring success, and they don’t pay great teachers nearly what they're worth. So children gradually learn to hate school, and they lose the creativity and the natural curiosity they’re born with—the attributes they most need as adults to succeed in our competitive world. And along with curiosity and creativity, they lose their willingness to try anything and their fearless disregard of being wrong.

An unintended consequence of what passes for education in most schools is what children do learn—that good grades are more important than a great education, that being right is more important than being effective, that winning is everything. And if kids do learn to rebel, they often do it without learning to think through the point or the consequences of their rebellion.

Good colleges (and a few great lower schools) are an exception to this generalization. But without a great elementary and secondary education, the chances of getting into or staying the course in college are remote.

So if you made it through school without losing your curiosity and creativity, and with the nerve to color outside the lines, thank the creative teachers who inspired you, the parents who encouraged you, and the writers and other rebels who demonstrated that the “right way” often isn’t the only way

18 comments:

Barbara D'Amato said...

You are SO right.

Michael Dymmoch said...

Thanks, Barb

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