“What are we really trying to do when we think about raising kids?..We’re trying to put in place the ingredients so the child is going to be a successful 35 year old. It’s not really about getting an A in algebra.”
That quote is from an article in today’s Health section of the NY Times entitled, “School Curriculum Falls Short on Bigger Lessons”, which discusses the fact that schools and their emphasis on grades and testing does nothing to teach children essential life skills. Which sounds great. Almost radical, even. Like something us life learners might say.
But (and there always is a ‘but’ isn’t there?)….
The article, which has such a promising title and opening paragraph, then becomes a forum for ‘experts’ to tell parents all the ‘strategies’ and ‘teachable moments’ they can employ to foster motivation, resilience, critical thinking, etc. All while still toeing the line and performing well at whatever school the child may attend.
Here’s the thing: Kids are motivated, resilient, driven, creative and have an incredible power for critical thinking, until we send them to school where it is beaten out of them in favor of conformity and the belief that the only worthy goal is to get good grades so they can go to college and then get a good job. The Times article, however, implies that none of those traits are inherent and since the schools are not teaching them they must be taught using ‘strategies’ that will then enhance academic learning and lead ultimately to a successful life.
Articles like this infuriate me because much of the information given is correct. We shouldn’t tell kids they have to excel in everything. Paying attention to things that we enjoy as opposed to things we don’t is a good way to help determine a life path. But it’s like paddling against the current. Kids are still in school where testing and grades reign supreme. And instead of addressing the real issue, which is that coercion-based learning doesn’t work and is often if not always detrimental to the above-mentioned traits, the ‘experts’ give parents yet another list of things to do to raise a successful child. When reading a story aloud, ask your child questions about what the character is thinking or feeling. Yes, because we can’t just read aloud for fun, we must develop social cognition along the way! If your son complains about the way boys are portrayed on TV, what should you do? Well, the best parent will use that complaint as an opportunity to do an experiment by collecting data and grilling their son on their charts and information, thereby developing his critical thinking skills, of course.
Hey, I have an idea! How about this? Give a child the freedom to learn without limits or coercion or time frame. Let children play as much and as long as they like. Take school out of the equation and watch their motivation and resilience bloom as they grow in confidence and knowledge.
I know, I know. There I go again, wanting what can never be. Except it can. One life learning family at a time.