Monday, April 23, 2012

5 Outdated Concepts to Remove From Public Schools

Bohemian Mom
Activist Post

In a previous article, I offered 5 Ways to Improve the Public School Experience with Unschooling Techniques.

As an unschooling parent, I often struggle with the thoughts of what happens to all the other children that are still in the public school system. While we believe very strongly in the benefits of having our children at home and following an unschooling lifestyle, I know that it is simply not possible for everyone.

I feel that the public school system is a completely inefficient model for gaining knowledge. Our public school systems are deeply rooted in an archaic mindset that we should consider updating to be in step with current technological and societal advancements. 

With the foundational goals of happiness, confidence, safety, and encouraging children to seek out their own passion, I think it is time that we look at what we should remove from public school philosophy, so that we prepare our children better for the real world that awaits beyond the orchestrated schoolyard experience.

Separation of children by age
The practice of separating children by age only fosters the idea that we cannot work with others that are different.  This couldn't be further from the truth.  Not only is working with different age groups good for development, but it also keeps in mind the highly variable rates at which young children develop. Not all five year olds are on the same level. Why not offer them the opportunity to learn from older children, or to help younger ones?

Having a wide range of ages in a classroom will do a couple things. For starters, young children seem to benefit greatly by learning from older children, as they love to emulate older siblings and peers. Older children gain a confidence and pride in helping others and learn to be more tolerant and considerate of others when they are helping younger children.  It benefits everyone and can easily be arranged.

Mentoring programs are wonderful and they work well. But why not offer that same type of interaction in school?  Institute an age range of possibly 3-4 grade levels together, at least for certain subjects and activities.  Play with it and see what best works for the students.  Montessori schools are already doing this and it works well to foster creativity and self-esteem.  Two things that seem to be falling by the wayside in our school system at the moment.

When test scores go up, we should worry, because of how poor a measure they are of what matters, and what you typically sacrifice in a desperate effort to raise scores. - Alfie Kohn

Testing our children is sold to us under the auspices of accountability. How on earth will we know what our children know and if the teachers are doing their job without the tests, they tell us. Accountability should come from parents' and children’s happiness. Not everyone will be pleased, but if the overall sentiment is positive and the children enjoy their days, that should be enough.  Again, if parents had choices, they could simply choose a school that emphasizes testing or one that does not.

Universal testing of children is no longer an accurate measure of ability.  Book smarts and ability are not universal. Additionally, many teachers complain that they are losing any autonomy they once had in the classroom in an effort to teach to the tests.  The quality and flexibility of education drops as the focus is solely put on what the test makers think is important. Meanwhile, kids are having creativity and diversity sucked out of their lives.  Finally, every answer to the questions on these so-called tests could be found or calculated with a tablet in seconds.  So, really, what's the point?

Busy work
Busy work is a huge component to homework and the need for children to be in school so many hours a day. Relaxation or free time is not appreciated at all, yet we all need it.  Playing games and interacting with parents and siblings is a far more useful way for children to spend their time.  If they are done with their work in the classroom, allow and encourage them to do what they want.  They will still be busy, but busy working on what has value to them.  Isn't that important enough?  Even forcing them into full-time extracurricular activities can be harmful.

In my opinion, homework should be done away with altogether (I can hear all the children cheering now).  When a second-grader is in school all day, five days a week, why on earth do they need to do more school work?  It's madness! Mindless worksheets just to have the appearance that they are always working or always learning.  I have news for you; they are always learning, and usually most effectively through play.  Get rid of homework all together, and allow children time to be with friends and family, play, and view the world on their own terms.

Long hours away from home
We ask children to do for most of the day what few adults are able to do for even an hour. How many of us, attending, say, a lecture that doesn’t interest us, can keep our minds from wandering? Hardly any.  - John Holt

Simply put, our children are overworked and separated for far too many hours from their family. Family ties are extremely important for child development, especially when children are young. Interaction with their siblings, parents, extended family and pets is vital to their formation of identity. At this point, we see our children for a very limited time during the day, and that time gets quickly eaten up with duties like extracurricular activities, homework, baths, dinner, and sleep.

Cut back the hours that they are in the classroom spent on traditional means of educating.  If we have smaller class sizes, then 4 hours per day should be plenty to gain what currently is achieved in 7 or so hours.  If parents struggle with work commitments, then use that other time to allow children creative outlets to explore their world.  Plant gardens, allow computer time, set up apprenticeships for older children, etc.  Let children decide what they want to do and get them involved in it.

Institutional feel of classrooms
If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you would probably design something like a classroom. - John Medina

Schools and classrooms are overly institutional feeling, which is cold and unhealthy.  The oppressive rules are increasingly prison-like. This stifles creativity and curiosity and makes our children accept the life of living in a box.  I know building all new schools is not possible, but bringing the outdoors inside, allowing classroom time to be outdoors, colorfully painting, and encouraging ideas from children are all things that can be done to help this.

When a new school is being built consider what would foster your own creativity, what would help allow you to see the world and all its possibilities.  Isn't that the best we can give to our children?

The bottom line is that no matter what you think of homeschooling or unschooling, the public education system needs a massive paradigm shift. How can it hurt to incorporate new ideas into the classroom? I know many of you reading will probably question how to fund these changes.  But again I would argue that it may not be about increasing funding, but rather a simple change in how and what we are funding.

You may say I am a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.  - John Lennon.

I know there are more people out there that see the pitfalls in the way our children are being educated. Let’s stand up together and make a change!  

This article first appeared on Bohemian Travelers family travel blog.

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Anonymous said...

O.K. All you out there stop whining, get your credential, hope to get a stable job in the next five years, get assigned a classroom of 36-42 middle scholars, keep up with state, district, and national b.s. on how to do your job, and make a difference from the inside. Anyone? Anyone?....... Builler.......Builler.......

Anonymous said...

Throughout my life, I learned the most from people who were not "qualified" teachers. How did we ever get to the point where a piece of paper announcing one's qualifications as a teacher actually make one a good teacher?

Think of all the people in your life who influenced you a great deal. Maybe people like Ghandi, Jesus, the neighbor who was a mechanic and took the time to talk with you and show you how things worked. None of these people had papers to show they were qualified to teach. Our education system would reject these people as teachers.

To me, slotting people as "qualified" teachers is no different than slotting some people as more beautiful than others. No wonder the system doesn't work very well.

David McElroy said...

Public Schools should rightly be considered as child abuse centers. They breed conformity and stifle creativity, reward "group think" and punish independent thought to indoctrinate captive students in the latest politically correct issues. Literacy, basic math skills, and critical thinking are no longer priorities. Schools teach kids to disrespect parents and report on them to give the state wedge issues that end up destroying families. Public schools teach kids the state is almighty, and any talk of God is prohibited and punished. Values are determined by the state, not by God or family. Homeschool the kids!

howardtlewisiiiffy said...

Unless you have the basic skills concerning math, science and investigative technique, the only thing you will be fit to create is mud pies and drawing on the chalk board with a Marksalot, which annoys teachers to no end. This article will leave elementary school and junior high school kids undisciplined and lost at sea when it comes time to utilize basic tools for useful creativity or thought. It is NOT a safe loving world. That is found in mama's arms and the public schools, besides teaching vital basic tools and skills, wean children from having to be in protective custody for their entire lives. Good teachers know kids want to travel and do wondrous things. A person who travels and does wondrous things without the basic knowledge provided by traditional curriculum is usually a mime or politician without a bloody clue as to what reality is. Witness Markey and Wyden. Two politicians who never pounded a nail or appear to have passed a basic science class. THEY thought all you had to do was gain a position of authority. This they have done as 'lost parakeet' personalities. They have yet to figure out that Captain Kirk is an actor's role.
Note: The 'appearance as written' box runs off. Computer error or disrespect? Please clear this up.

Anonymous said...

Retired people could be excellent teachers and mentors for children and teenagers, especially those from troubled families who need as role models people who have stable job and family histories and can demonstrate what responsibility is and what having rights and privileges involves.

Anonymous said...

Mr. McElroy you're 100% correct. And thats why the govt. makes the curriculum, it suits their interests. Read this book ( free on scribt or ) "poison drops in the federal senate" Its from the late 1800's and describes the general and rapid decline in society once govt education took hold. **remember 'the abolition of all forms of child labor and government schools' are 2 of the 10 planks of communism.....

Anonymous said...

lol this article was clearly written by a helicopter parent

joe bassett said...

I homeschooled and I see why teachers liek to teach. It gives you so much pleasure teaching youn gchildren. Especially first through 6th grade. I learned almost everything by the 7th grade I was going to learn. The rest was a waste.

Anonymous said...

Well said. But hey...what a way to deal with unemployed parents and hey...why not use those funds earmarked for education ....somewhere else? Homeschooling....Scrooge approved.

Durbandon said...

Some of the concepts presented are interesting. However we should realize our students are much less able to do anything than those from many other countries. We are out of space and need the Russians to transport our astronauts. Math skills are seriously lacking. We are intelectualy leaving the first world. Better education is essential. Removing testing is probably counterprotuctive. I taught chemistry at the university level. My students often eaid "Why should we learn this, we can always look it up?" It is like a language. You can look up lots of words but the effort means you can understand little. The language of chemistry requires you to learn a lot of things that happen in the world around you. If you have the knowledge, you can apply it to solving problems. If you do not you are ignorant and cannot. Testing is usefull in assesing these abilities.

Anonymous said...

I would also add that educators need to really look at the content the children are reading. Most of the assigned novels are on plagues (Yellow Fever), loss of parents (The Cay). They are putting fear into impressionable minds and it is the opposite of love and beauty. Titles like Diary of a Wimpy Kids, Captain Underpants and Junie B. Jones, Dumb Bunny, show you what the school system is encouraging, the decline of grace and beauty. Educators and parents must take a hard look at what is being force fed to our youth.

Anonymous said...

This is why education is failing. Child worship and lack of discipline is just what is described above. I would have hate being with first graders while I studied calculus.

This junk above is nothing more than new world order garbage.

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