Surviving My Education
Today, for some reason, the subject of education keeps coming up. You know how it is. First I read a Freshly Pressed blog post about someone’s idea of what kids should learn in school, because it looked more interesting than work.
Then about 30 4th graders head down the hall from their drama class to use the washrooms, which are right next to my shop. I do love it when we have groups of children at our drama school. I love the energy and enthusiasm that they bring to the space even though I don’t often get to interact with them. I thought that they might actually make my ears bleed today, but that didn’t happen until the teacher came down the hall and began screaming at them to be quiet. (All I could do to express myself here is a long row of question marks?)
Then, I came across a news article about how Oprah upset teachers all over America with this past Monday’s show which was all about the sad state of education in the US and apparently didn’t favour teachers.
I happen to have this weird passion about education and a lot of opinions about how much it basically sucks and what needs to be done to fix it.
I say that my passion is weird because despite the fact that I originally wanted to be a high-school band teacher, I really don’t see myself as a person who would ever be able to do anything about education, except to bitch about it. And in all fairness, I got tired of listening to myself bitch years ago.
That said, I recently realized that despite all that school didn’t teach me, like how to learn, that learning is the best and most fun thing ever, and that I am actually intelligent… I turned out OK in the end.
My high-school had a really crappy band program, but we still had a band program, and learning music was certainly one of my most important life-changing experiences. If it weren’t for music, I don’t think I ever would have believed that I could succeed at anything.
Yes, we were probably the worst band in the lowest level of all the bands at the city-wide band competition each year. After 4, 5, and 6 years of playing together we made it to a very poor grade 3 Royal Conservatory level. That made it a bit boring, and more than a little embarrassing for me, but still, it was far more interesting than English, Math, Science, Social Studies, French or History.
Plus, there was my high-school vocational program where I learned the basic skills required for a career in the fashion industry. Band, Fashion Technology and my friends made high-school a lot of fun. Which is good, because I suspect that if it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t have bothered going.
I graduated with honours, largely due to insanely high marks in the subjects I cared about. I am literate, can do math with a calculator, and am a self-proclaimed expert at converting linear measurements back and forth between metric and imperial. In case you’re wondering why that is, it is because we were taught only in metric in school, and 23 years later, I still don’t work with anyone who works in metric. If I want to communicate, I have to be bilingual.
All in all, I figured out how to learn anything I need to learn, am in love with doing that and finally figured out that I’m intelligent. (This took years to sink in after the IQ test results came in, because of course, you have to believe it.)
I have two fully functioning halves to my brain because the right side just won’t stop despite a system that doesn’t believe it has much value.
Yep, I am fully functioning and whole, despite my education.
Which brings me to what I think about what needs to happen in a tiny nutshell, because anything more would turn into a book that I am not qualified to write.
I think we need to stop talking and debating about what information students need to be taught. It seems completely pointless.
We have no idea what will be needed in the future, we never really have. If we did, I would not have been taught pattern drafting in metric only… hello.
The world is moving faster and faster all of the time and I don’t see how it will slow down.
Technology, climate change, economic systems that cannot survive on a planet that is running out of resources… we need to be teaching kids how to learn and how to figure things out for themselves so that they have a chance both to survive, and to be able to find solutions to the mess that we’re leaving them.
Educators need to be more concerned about brain development than what students can memorize and regurgitate. Data, can be accessed from most cell phones in seconds so why do we need to memorize the major economic activities of geographical locations? Especially since those answers will change.
Yes, it is important that we learn how to memorize some things. Everything about the brain is use-it-or-lose-it and it needs to be worked. But let’s make it interesting, relevant and useful shall we?
It seems to me that so many parents care only about grades and Universities so that their kids can get good jobs, but as a citizen of the world, I am more concerned with teaching kindness and compassion and how to think in ways that can incorporate the BIG picture. A feat that cannot be done without development of the right hemisphere. If you are unable to consider how you live your life in regards to how it affects everyone and everything… what is the point? And what kind of future do we have?
I know that these systems are changing constantly, and vary from school to school, never mind between regions and countries, but I know from my reading, and wonderful conversations with dedicated educators, that many believe that we need a complete overhaul of the system. The answers don’t lie in a back to basics one-size-fits-all approach. It is complicated, and difficult, but that doesn’t mean impossible. Failing might mean to fail the future entirely.