Friday, November 18, 2011

Write 50 times, "I will not pay too much attention at school"

Our eldest is in 3rd grade and this appears to be the point where school becomes hateful.  I'm not sure if that's too strong a word, but I've always wondered why/when it is that learning ceases to be fun.  Now I know that in the USA, this starts in 3rd Grade.  The plethora of homework is divisive and the speed of progress is both tedious and relentless, all at the same time.  It's almost as if this is our boy's first taste of how shitty people and school can be.

"Who's fault is it?"  What!  Do you think this is a political blog?!  ;-)  It's no-one's fault, it just happened through bad motivation, fear and ignorance.  The teachers are forced to keep testing our kids - this isn't to help our kids, it's to analyze the teachers' performance.  The syllabus can't hope to keep up with the way the world is progressing.  Learning a few keyboard skills will probably not be all that useful for my boy by the time he enters the world of work... I doubt we'll see 'qwerty' all that often in the 2020's.  If you can talk to your mobile phone easily now, how will you 'write' a report or an email in 2021?

So why is education such a mess?  I think it's because we're all scared.   Scared that our kids won't seamlessly power through school and into the career of their dreams.   Why are we scared?  Because we know it's inevitable that they won't have an easy ride.  We've learned that all by ourselves, without a single class in school.  We learned that by living.  But the main issue I think is that when we are scared we don't make our best decisions.  We blame teachers.  We try to cram more into the curriculum.  We decide to narrow the curriculum to be more vocational or more academic or more 'progressive'.  We assume that the job market will be only slightly different from the one we compete in  right now.

So you want a solution?  Well provide world peace first and then I'll tell you the answer!  Perfect formal education is not possible, nor should it be.  The world keeps turning and although most of the test answers don't change, but some do.  But the biggest changes come from when we reset the questions. 

Too many times I look at my son's homework and I can think of 3 or more 'correct' answers to a single question, and this isn't just because of the language differences between UK and US English.  How many sides does a circle have exactly?  In the UK, I seem to remember being taught a circle has no sides, but my son has been taught that it has one side and, if you think about it a bit more, a circle could be considered as a polygon with an infinite number of sides.  Or of course there's inside and outside. ;-)

It probably sounds like I'm nitpicking, of course our kids need to develop concepts and so simple questions with simple answers are the best way to start... but do they really need to be tested on their ability to accept narrow minded questions and answers.  I wouldn't mind, but I'm told these tests are 'important'.  It's just BS, if my son knows that there are 3 valid answers but only one is 'correct' for teacher then he's only going to be confused.  If there's an Einstein in our schools right now, I bet their teacher is in discussion with their parent(s) about treatment for his/her condition in order to improve his/her poor test scores.

RANT OVER.  Sorry, it went on a bit. ;-)

I love learning new things, experimenting, discovering and trying to make sense of the world.  It's my job as Dad to fight my fears, as they try to tempt me down a path that will ultimately ruin my son's education.  My son is good, he is bright and he is interested.  He is not motivated by homework, tests and my pointless obsession with neat handwriting.  It's taken me 43 years to start to begin to learn what really interests me and what really motivates me.  Perhaps I can help give my son a head start by helping him find his own focus earlier in life than I did.


We certainly shouldn't be fighting over homework, we have a model airplane kit to learn to build and fly.