Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thoughts on Schooling

What should schooling look like? What really matters? What truly counts when all is said and done? Should all kids -- even just all the kids in the same family -- have to know the same things? What is more important, the "3 R's" or a "liberal education"? History, Science, Literature, Music, Art -- these are the most interesting subjects, but are they the most useful?

We can force them to learn things, but how much good does it do if the things they have learned are really neither interesting nor useful? Geometry, for example, may be useful for some future occupations, and to some it may prove interesting even if they will never use it in every day life. But to some it is not interesting and will never be useful -- should these individuals be forced to spend time learning it just the same?

It's easy enough to say these things, but deep inside what we really want is to have well-rounded children, right? What constitutes "well-rounded"? Can a child be thought well-rounded if he or she doesn't understand geometry or speak a foreign language? Isn't that part of what made a well-rounded person a few centuries ago? Is the definition of well-founded different now? Has understanding computers replaced geometry?

What are the things a person needs to know to live a happy life? Do we impose on them the things we think will make them happy? Surely the knowledge that makes me feel well-rounded doesn't necessarily have to be the same knowledge that makes another person feel that way.

We say we wish our children to pursue their own interests and to flourish in the areas best suited to them, but do we really provide the proper environment for that? "Education is an atmosphere...," Charlotte Mason said. If our children are forced to read books -- even wonderful books -- that hold no interest for them, or to do workbooks that bore them, all in the name of being "well-rounded," is that really education?

Or perhaps we are confusing "well-educated" with "well-rounded." What is well-educated, anyway?

I have a thought. Do you remember how, when your child was very young, the doctors would say, "It doesn't really matter where they are on this list of milestones, it only matters that they are progressing at a regular rate."?

Shouldn't that be how we continue to view learning? That it doesn't matter exactly which knowledge they obtain, so long as they are continuously learning something either useful or interesting every day?

I think that's it!

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