Quick announcement: I will be appearing tonight on Huffpost Live, at 5:30 p.m. PST (California time). If you’re around, I’d love it if you could tune in. J The topic will be ADD/ADHD, and I’ll apparently be there to balance out the perspective by offering my view that ADD is not some deficit, but rather the next stage in our evolution.
Disclaimer: This particular subject has been incubating for a while, and well, it decided to plop out today. But I’m going to warn you right up front. This is another one of my huge, long epic posts, because it’s a huge, epic topic and I wanted to do it justice. Also, it’s been quite a while since I’ve published one of these beheamoths. Plus, I’m naturally wordy. So, you know, there’s that.
In my post about ADD, I argued that today’s kids are much less willing to be trained into focusing on something that they don’t give a flying crap about than previous generations were. I also proffered that if we’re having to medicate such large numbers of our kids to fit the system, maybe it’s not the kids who are broken. Maybe it’s the system.
A quick search in Google will show that just about everyone agrees that our current education system is no longer working. Theories as to why that is, however, vary widely. Some people think it’s all a conspiracy – the Illuminati and their evil henchmen are deliberately dumbing down the general population (and apparently, we’re letting them). Others blame it on the absence of funds, or discipline, the breakdown of family values, or the fact that God doesn’t get to come to school. In almost all cases, the outlook is bleak – we’re all getting stupider and there’s not much we can do about it. Well, I’d like to first call bullshit (we are NOT DE-volving!!) and offer an entirely different perspective, if I may.
We didn’t actually get it wrong
While there was a time when I subscribed to conspiracy theories (and I still don’t judge those who do, I just find them far too negative to be productive), I don’t believe that the original public education system was put in place to dumb us down. I don’t believe the intent was that sinister, but actually quite appropriate for the times. It’s just that the original design, much like the steam engine, making fire by rubbing two stones together, and the mullet, is WAY past its expiration date.
We didn’t always have free public education. There was a time when entering the clergy was the only way one could learn to read and write. Religious institutions then began setting up private schools, where those who could afford it could receive an education. It wasn’t until the 1800’s (exact dates vary by region of the world) that widespread public education became the norm, and even then, it was generally only at the basic level. Higher education (meaning high school and beyond) was still reserved for the privileged, since it didn’t seem to be necessary or even beneficial for the masses. It wasn’t until literacy rates had begun to climb all around that it became apparent that the general population, and society, would actually benefit from further education.
All of these developments can be seen as a natural product of our continuous evolution. It wasn’t like widespread education was on the agenda but was being deliberately thwarted by anyone. We first had to recognize that a literate populace might be a good thing and then figure out a way to implement a system to accomplish that. We really kind of had to invent a system of public education from scratch, and we actually did a pretty decent job. Think about it: Worldwide, we went from being an almost completely illiterate bunch of farmers and craftsmen who thought the world was flat, to a society of people who can use their smartphones to access satellite images of any point on this Google Earth. And even if we do use a disproportionate amount of that power to look at LOL Cats (and I’m in no way saying that’s a bad thing), the fact remains that we now have more access to information and the power to use and understand it than we’ve ever had before. The educations system may be broken, but it did manage to get us this far, and that’s no small accomplishment. Let’s give credit where credit is due.
That being said, we can’t just slap an “upgrade” sticker on a gramophone and call it an MP3 player. Simply making a few changes to revise our current system isn’t going to get us there. And that’s not just because we now know so much more about how human beings learn than we did at the turn of the 19th century. It’s mainly because the old system of education was based around completely different goals than the ones we have today.
Churning out good little factory workers
The public education system that’s in effect today was put in place largely to prepare the populace for the industrial age. As we moved away from mom and pop shops, and what was essentially an economy fueled by independent contractors, and started to build factories with conveyor belts, we needed to train workers who would be willing to perform simple tasks over and over again. Whereas a craftsman used to build an entire table, a factory worker might spend all day, every day, making only table legs, never coming in contact with the final product. This is something called “segregation of duties”, and it’s still widely practiced in many large companies today.
Large, complex jobs are broken down into smaller, simple tasks. Each worker only has to know their own task instead of training to complete the entire project, making training faster and easier and allowing for much more efficiency and consistency. And this approach does work – in fact, mass production depends on it. Conveyor belt type production churns out much larger amounts, and more consistent products than single item production.
The only problem was that humans aren’t machines and didn’t readily adapt to doing the same damn thing over and over again, while being kept on a need to know basis regarding the bigger picture (and never needing to know). But we were on the cusp of our next stage of evolution, the Industrial Era. And so, we began to train and condition our youth for the factory environment, using the public education system.
How schools are like factories
Working in a factory type environment (and I use the term “factory type” because most corporations are still run this way today, even if the jobs are far removed from an assembly line), requires conformity above all. If it’s your job to create widgets, and nothing but widgets, you can’t just suddenly start making doohickeys instead, just because you had a sudden doohickey related flash of inspiration. You have to be willing to work in a bleak environment, day in day out, focusing on something you really don’t care about (how much can one care about widgets?), and following orders without question. Independent thought is not only discouraged, it’s detrimental and therefore squashed. I mean, imagine if all the assembly line workers suddenly started to ponder the validity of making widgets, in the grand, cosmic scheme of things. How many widgets would be sacrificed to philosophical musings, I wonder?
So, schools were set up to mirror the factory environment, allowing educators to train children to give up their independent thought and creativity at an early age.
- Subjects were separated – much like tasks being separated in the factory environment, and were (are) most often presented independently of their application. Just like the worker may not have known all the end products his widgets were ultimately used for, so was the student kept in the dark about how good grammar, or math and science skills might’ve been directly applicable in his own life. This is still the case today. Most students have no idea why they have to learn what they’re told to learn, just as many office workers have no idea why they have to produce report after useless report.
- The ending of segments of time were marked by the ringing of a bell, exactly the same as in the factories in the early 19th century.
- Students were told exactly what to learn, regardless of their interests. They were taught to focus for long periods on subjects they didn’t care about. This was useful for creating factory workers who would have to perform the same boring job over and over again.
- Risk taking was discouraged and punished with humiliation. Answers were either right or wrong, and not open to interpretation. In the olden days, the teachers didn’t just shame you for getting the answer wrong, they might’ve even put you in the corner with a dunce hat on your head. Peer pressure was used to get children to conform to the rules.
- Students were judged on a set of arbitrary and often changing criteria, which they didn’t fully understand, in an effort to instill in them the sense that they could never fully grasp the big picture and should leave it to the teachers/authorities/management to tell them what to do.
Training obedient factory workers may have helped us usher in the Industrial age, but since we’re now in a completely different era, and stepping into yet another phase of our evolution, this system of education is simply no longer relevant, and isn’t really adaptable to our current needs. That’s because this way of conformist thinking runs counter to how humans are designed to process information.
There’s never just one answer
In school, we’re told there’s only one right answer, and we’re taught exactly how to arrive at it. We’re given one conclusion and one path to arrive at it. But that’s not how reality works! There’s rarely just one answer to any question and there’s certainly never just one path to that answer. Different people will use different paths to get to the “correct” answer (this is apparent in the different learning styles), and may come to vastly different conclusions, which, when seen from their own perspective, could all be seen as valid.
But students are taught to shut off their brains (all but the ability for rote memorization) and blindly accept not only that there is only one answer, but that there is only one way to reach it.
When I moved from Germany to the U.S., I was 9 years old. At this point, I had been taught to do quite a bit of math, and was well ahead of the other kids in my class. The problem, however, was that I had been taught to use a different method to arrive at the correct answer. In fact, since I was good at math, I usually just did it in my head. This was unacceptable to the teacher, since it wasn’t just important that I arrived at the correct answer, but that the path which I had used to get there be tightly controlled, as well. I was required to show my work, which was then deemed “wrong”, even though the end result was right. Don’t even get me started on the spelling tests I failed because I’d inadvertently used British English spelling.
Needless to say, that didn’t sit well with me. They were essentially telling me that the way I was thinking was incorrect, even though I’d arrived at the right result. The process by which I’d attained the answer didn’t conform, and, as
f*%#ed up incredulous as this may seem, that was almost more important than the answer itself.
In Junior high, I changed schools in the middle of the year. My first week in science class, we took a test, and one of the questions was: Give an example of molecules in a solid state, a liquid state and a gaseous state. Now, given that I hadn’t been present for the lesson this example was referring to, I wasn’t aware of the “correct” answer and simply used my brain (*gasp). The question hadn’t specified that the answer had to be one type of molecule that could exist in all three states, but had simply asked for examples of all three. And so, I wrote Liquid: Mercury, Gas: Hydrogen and Solid: a chair. I got the question wrong. The correct answer was “water”. When I challenged the teacher on the fact that my answers were not incorrect given the wording of the question (I was stickler for semantics, even then), I was told that Mercury and Hydrogen were ok, but the chair was wrong. When I asked in confusion if everything wasn’t actually made of molecules, I was told “Yes, but those are different kinds of molecules.” I’ve never been able to get a scientist to explain that one to me.
I don’t blame the teachers, mind you. The whole education system was designed to squash independent thought, so any evidence of it has to be unacceptable.
The measure of success has changed
For the majority of the twentieth century, we were convinced that the goal was to get a good job, and our education system was our ticket to that. If we studied hard and got a degree, we’d be guaranteed a nice, solid position in some big company where we could work obediently until retirement. This was the carrot they lured us with and the consistent answer to the question “Why do I have to learn this stuff?” Well, times have changed. No one seriously expects guaranteed employment anymore, and a degree is by no means an automatic route to success. Ordinary people can become rich with one innovation, and it’s now more possible than ever for one person to have a measurable impact on society as a whole, if not the entire world. Our dreams have changed, and we’re no longer content to look forward to a good solid factory job. We want more. And we certainly don’t all want the same thing. And yes, I realize that there are those who would rather return to the good old days, but as I said, you can DE-volve, so just suck it up, already.
Being successful has come to mean so much more than having security. For many, it means great wealth (which already represents a huge shift in consciousness. People didn’t used to feel empowered enough to even dream of being wealthy and/or changing the world. Now, it’s everyday news). But for more and more people going through the great awakening and who have reached the next level of understanding, it means happiness. In either case though, whether you define success in terms of money or awesomeness, our current education system just isn’t conducive to that outcome.
Free, passionate thinkers wanted
If you want to foster innovation, the best way to get there is to allow anyone, not just a select few, to come up with solutions. And that means fostering independent, creative, lateral (vs. linear) thinking. It means allowing ourselves to go down any path we choose and see where it leads, and accepting all answers as potentially valid. It means taking a look at the assumptions that were made in the asking of the question and allowing for those assumptions to change.
We can’t just stop telling kids HOW to think, though. We also have to stop telling them WHAT to think. You’re never going to get true innovation and world changing ideas by putting a bunch of baseball fans in a room and asking them to solve football’s problems. Sure, they can learn all about football over time, but if that’s not where their passion lies, they’ll never dig into the subject the way they would with baseball. Think about it: when you’re really into something, you think about it night and day, not just while you’re “on the clock”. You can’t help yourself. You dream about it, talk about it, read about it, ponder it, question it, dissect it and put it back together. You do all this not because you’re told to, but because you want to. No one needs to motivate you. When you have a problem you really care about, you put everything you’ve got into solving it. Combine this passion with free, lateral thinking and you’ve got a recipe for true innovation. Remove one, or in the case of our education system, both, and you’ve got a recipe for an unmotivated, unhappy, seemingly lethargic, disgruntled, resentful workforce and student body. Is this starting to sound familiar?
The big paradigm shift
Before you despair about the state of our education system and how we’re all doomed, let me point out that the solution to this problem is already under way. First of all, human nature is stronger than any man made system. Innovators have been making new discoveries all along, even if they did so more in spite of the education system and less than because of it. Artists have been creating, thinkers have been thinking, and college dropouts have been discovering world changing technology in their garages. It’s not like we’ve been living under a rock all this time and are somehow just now discovering our power. We’ve had the power all along, and we’ve been using it, just not on as large a scale as we are about to.
Kids have been resisting the education system for ages (I certainly did), and are doing so more and more vehemently (and successfully!). We can try to medicate them into submission and conformity all we want, it won’t work. There’s too many of them, and the adults are starting to wake up, too. New schools with radically different learning systems are already cropping up, and what seemed like a bunch of hippy nonsense just a few years ago is now proving itself to be a viable and highly successful way to allow children to learn.
The “new” way of facilitate learning
We don’t so much need to “teach” kids, as facilitate their learning. Your child learns to speak by listening to you. After a little while, she tries to mimic the sounds she hears, and after a bit of practice, you can’t shut her up anymore. It’s a natural process and there’s nothing you have to do to make it happen. It just does.
Children learn to speak because they want to communicate. They have a strong incentive to practice, since doing so allows them to do and/or get something they want. You don’t have to motivate a kid to learn their first language. In the same way, if a child is interested in a subject, you don’t have to “teach” them anything. You just have to expose them to the materials needed (like books on the subject, for example), to facilitate their learning. My nephew loves dinosaurs. He memorized the Latin names of the ancient beasts before he was even able to read. No one had to sit there with flashcards teaching him the names. Flying monkeys couldn’t have stopped him.
The key lies in the child’s (and adults’) level of interest. When we are interested in a subject, we not only learn faster and more comprehensively, but work harder and produce vastly superior results then when we don’t give a flying crap. We can use this concept not only to reform education, but how we work, as well. What would happen if we only ever worked on things we were truly interested in? Many people would say that a lot of the crappy jobs would stop getting done. I disagree. I believe that if everyone were given the tools to do what they really wanted to do, we would thrive like never before. Sure, there might not be that many people who would be passionate about picking up the garbage, but I’m certain there are plenty of people out there who would work diligently and feverishly to eliminate the problem in another way (automated garbage pickup, for example). Jobs would morph, new jobs would be created and many of our more manual functions would just go away.
In order for that to happen, however, we need to always consider the bigger picture. We can’t separate and segregate tasks and work on a need to know basis (with no one but a few needing to know). We have to make knowledge and tools accessible, and learn from the top down. Instead of trying to drill Geometry and Physics into a child’s brain, for example, one could help him build a skateboard ramp, which requires both. A child interested in building that ramp will pick up the necessary math and science in a flash and with enthusiasm, because it’s directly tied to something he wants and is interested in. There are a lot of people out there who think they’re horrible at math or some other subject and consider themselves too stupid to learn it, simply because they had a hard time forcing themselves to focus on mathematics out of context. Learning the alphabet is a lot more fun when you realize that doing so will allow you to read your favorite book.
Different types of thinkers would come up with different answers, no longer hampered by being told to only think one way (which only works well for one segment of the population). What’s more, self esteem would rise drastically – if you’ve been told all your life that you’re stupid because you can’t successfully produce results in the one way you’ve been told is acceptable, you’re not likely to allow yourself to have any major breakthroughs. But, if you now realize that by thinking the way you’ve been naturally trying to along, you have loads of amazing ideas, you may well realize that intelligence is a very subjective term, one that’s been much too narrowly defined up until recently.
We have to stop trying to come up with solutions and then asking our kids to conform to them. Instead, let’s lay out the problems and challenge kids to pick one that they resonate with and solve it. This is already happening, by the way. Kids often challenge themselves to do this, and when they do, miracles happen.
- A 17 year old High School student discovered a very promising cure for cancer.
- 17 year old Tony Hansberry Jr., developed a new suture method for hysterectomy patients, that have led to decreased hospital stays and more efficient surgeries.
- An 18 year old Nepalese teen invented cheap solar panels using human hair
This applies to the work environment, as well. Need to solve a large scale problem in a company? Explain the issues and all related details to the workforce (the ones actually doing the work…), in other words, give them all the information and tools they need, empower them to have ideas (take the risk of failure out of the equation), and watch them come up with incredible solutions.
Why not challenge ourselves to think this way all the time? Haven’t we gathered enough proof? The Internet has given people from all over the globe the opportunity to exchange ideas and knowledge, and new technologies are being born at an unprecedented rate. This is already happening! All we can do now is continue to fight the changes, or jump on board. I’m for doing some jumping. Who’s with me?
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll love this excerpt of a talk given by one of the most brilliant and eloquent people on the planet today: Sir Ken Robinson:
Just had to add to this about Mary Leaky, whose anniversary is today. I just found out she did not have a formal higher education, yet was a pioneer in anthropology! She followed her passion and her mom allowed her to be herself, from what I read. Cool!
That’s great A! Thanks for the excellent example!!
Great post, Melody 🙂
Actually I just remembered how the Addams Family shows love to their kids and motivate them in pursuing their passions. It’s all a matter of perspective ;P
That’s great H.! Another reason to love the Addams Family! 🙂
Hmmm… While I agree that much school learning in the US is outdated, I think the real problem in the system is the ever-decreasing respect for teachers. I taught for thirty years in two very different systems, Canada (rated #2 in the world behind Finland) and the US, bottom of the charts. The difference was not so much the actual curriculum, but rather in the degree of respect for the professionalism of teachers.
Let me say up front that I worked with some amazing teachers in the US system, many of whom were fighting tooth and nail to deliver the education they knew their students wanted and deserved. Key phrase: fighting tooth and nail.
What I observed in Canada: (1) Teachers are paid well. You can raise a family of four on a single teacher’s salary. (2) It’s really hard and prestigious to become a teacher. When I did my training, after a required bachelor’s degree in the subject area, it was harder to get into teacher training than into law school, and about the same as into medical school. (3) Our most basic training even 40 years ago was exactly what you describe, Melody – learning styles. Teachers have to appreciate all the ways of looking at a problem, and listen carefully for exciting, innovative solutions. This is the core of good teaching, and in Canada is specifically taught and widely practiced. (4) The government doesn’t dare mess with curriculum. Teachers are highly paid professionals who have their students’ best interests at heart, and are the people best situated to determine curriculum and how to deliver it. (5) Some classrooms are traditional, some innovative. When I was teaching high school, students could choose their teacher for a given subject. Things tended to more or less work out. (6) Teachers are generally happier. They tend to stick around, because the job can be interesting and fulfilling. Inspired, enthusiastic teachers = motivated learners.
I don’t want to imply that Canada is perfect, but to me it was a system that worked. I left in 1997, and can only speak until then, but Canada continues to rank consistently at the top for education.
I’d describe the US, but most of your readers are probably already familiar. If you don’t know, then just picture pretty much the direct opposite of Canada. Add in the devaluing of intellectuals and of science, and the picture is even grimmer.
So… I think the ‘solution,’ is to re-professionalize teaching, and then to trust teachers, who are evolving at least as fast as, maybe faster than, the general population, to make learning interesting, productive, and flexible.
Not everybody is cut out to home school. Not everybody wants to. Entrusting children to caretakers goes back to hunter/gatherer days. Let’s value and reward those caretakers as they deserve, and get out of their way!
Whew! Well, one good education rant deserves another. This is a subject very close to my heart. Thanks for presenting so clearly the problems in the system, Melody. And thank you everyone for listening to a slightly different take on a possible solution.
Hugs to all,
Wow Mary Carol,
You make quite a point. I think that respect for teachers will be a necessary component in overhauling the school system and I’m so glad you mentioned it here. What a lot of this comes down to is giving up control. We try so hard to standardize and create rules so that nothing is left to chance. And that means taking away our freedom for individuality and shows a complete lack of trust in intuition and Universal laws.
But, giving teachers more power, the way you described, means trusting them to do what’s best for the kids, even when they may deviate from the norm. Some kids need creative approaches. Of course, the general population still fears that this kind of freedom would lead to horrible outcomes, but honestly, how much worse can it get??
It will require a leap of faith, to be sure, but we do have some examples around the world where different components of this new model are being successfully used. Put them all together, I say, and watch the kids (and teachers, and parents and everyone) thrive! 🙂
PS: It’s nice to have you on the soapbox with me. LOL.
I’ve got one word for you: unschooling.
ps love Sir Ken Robinson!
Good word Susan! 🙂
This is exactly what my father was all about 60 years ago as he helped those considered retarded and mentally incapable make $17 an hour doing what they loved to do. He was also in charge of Gifted Education for the State and Bill Gates and Paul Allen certainly benefited from his ideas.
This is why I helped develop an alternative classroom for my children and then home schooled for a number of years.
I enjoyed reviewing Sr. Ken Robinson’s book and watching his TED talk….more good news
I know it is in my mythology, but I still believe not everyone gets to make a living at working on their passion…but I hope this will change too..
Thanks Patricia. Your dad sounds awesome! And of course, so you do. 🙂
I do think this is a huge step on the way to a future where we will all contribute to the whole by working on what we are passionate about. And when seen through that filter, many of those currently considered “incapable” may well become some of our most valuable contributors! 🙂
Great, great post, dear.
Wow, don’t get me started with the school system! I nodded my head in agreement with you all throughout your post.
When you were talking about how the teachers didn’t care so much about the fact that you’ve got the right equation, but more how you did it, reflects so well on the worldwide school system. It’s down ridiculous.
It reminded me when I was in Spanish class. Because I have some Spaniard relatives on my mother’s side I could learn Spanish very easily and my accent was great. So that stupid teacher decided to never, ever interrogate me in front of the class… because? “my accent was too good”, and I could confused the other kids who could speak Spanish only with a strong ugly French accent. And that’s the the truth, Melody!
You are right, the school system is meant to teach children to fit into the can, so to speak, and don’t you dare thinking out of the box.
Congratulations on your increasing fame, gal 🙂
You’ll get a kick out of this: When I was about 10 and my English wasn’t yet all that great (had been in the US for maybe 6 months), a language “expert” came to our school and proceeded to teach us that English was the hardest language in the world. Chinese ranked second. I, of course, had to stand up and protest, even though I wasn’t entirely fluent yet. I was told to sit down and shut up. No one in that entire room (including the language expert, BTW) besides me spoke anything other than English. I still remember that, because it was just so wrong, but they were determined to be right. I’d love to get my hands on them now, lol.
Wow that is all so true! I’ve been spending alot of time getting the programming from school out of my head.
It’s funny because now anything presented in the mode of learning of schools I find it hard to comprehend it or stick to it. Like I tried to take an official business course and I was like “what the hell is wrong with these people” and the way they talked and everything just did my head in and I quit the course.
That could easily get me labeled with some bs thing like ‘add’ if I was a school student.
BUT… the thing is I study stuff on my own, courses presented by people who are doing what I want to learn, who get it and who talk to you like your an actual person and not an idiot and who don’t stick to some annoying ‘always politically correct’ tone and I stick to them, love them and enjoy them alot!
I have no problems learning things. But at school and with this official course I did, so I never plan to go back to an official school or university or anything again.
I totally saw this in action when I went to Golden Gate University in San Francisco. Almost all of their professors are part time and actually work in the field they teach. These are passionate people who love their subject so much they also want to teach it. They had up to date, real life anecdotes, they were funny, not always politically correct and I loved learning there. It was so different from my high school experience, where many of the teachers were instructing in subjects they didn’t care about (maybe they had been forced to take on another class, or something…)
Stick with what works for you! And bravo on having figured out what that is.
“That being said, we can’t just slap an “upgrade” sticker on a gramophone and call it an MP3 player.”
This actually works. 🙂 I used to do it as a kid and into my teens. Just put a sticker over anything outdated etc with a picture of the new thing I wanted, and it would work faster. I had such a fast dial-up internet. It had a sticker on it.
I’m not joking. It did work. But then when someone pointed it out it stopped working.
Awesome example of LOA in action, Alice. 🙂
P.S- I love the video you posted! I sent you a TedTalks video last year featuring Ken Robinson who spoke about how school kills creativity. I can’t get enough of this guy!! LOVE LOVE!!
Yay! I couldn’t wait for you to post a blog about education. I am in total agreement with your views! Years ago when I dropped out of college I was devastated by the disappointment that I felt and the negativity I received from family. Now, I have come to accept it, and in a way feel free. I don’t have the pressure to tie myself into a commitment and spend thousands of dollars on a subject I don’t truly have a passion for. Now I have a job I truly enjoy and can grow in. And I also have the leisure time to dabble in other hobbies.
I’m not against higher education. It just worked for me not to be so confined in a set curriculum for an entire school year.
Thanks again Mel! Always big bear hugs back,
You’re so welcome Sophie! And congrats on figuring out what you really wanted to do (not go to college) and honoring that decision, even if others didn’t understand. It’s not always easy, but in the end, it’s your life, not theirs.
Didn’t get to read this post yet (I certainly will), but I wanted to say awesome job on Huffpost Live!! 🙂 Pretty damn cool.
You can tell people on the panel were totally feeling what you were saying! I put in a few “Melody kicks ass” comments, but apparently their forum is heavily moderated so the only thing that got posted was a conservative comment agreeing with you lol
Anyway, looking forward to reading this & checking out that video! I was quite the radicalist in college. I started a site & tiny movement on campus called The College Game with my roommate. We discussed the ridiculousness of the education system & how to “game it” to get the most out of the experience without getting cornered into conformism. It was a ton of fun & wow, did I need to vent. It was my outlet.
I’m not sure if we can embed video in comments, but I’ll try it anyway. This is a cool little video I put on the college site & one I often showed others that’s an animation of a recording from philosopher Alan Watts on life & education in comparison to music. Check it out!
Thanks so much for the kind words! I really enjoyed it! They ended up cutting all my bits together and have featured me in a separate article, so I guess they did like what I had to say, lol.
The video didn’t come through. I don’t think you can embed, but you can put a link, so if you want to put that in, go ahead. 🙂
I see the shappening already. My husband who is ADHD was pretty much left to his own devices in school. Because he couldn’t sit still and he had the attention span of a gnat, he got left behind because there was nothing in place in the system to deal with his hyperactivity and difficulty in focusing. It was easier to just let him go than to try to wrangle him in. And they also had no plans in place or any idea that there were ways to effectively handle children like him.
But with my son, the small interventions of training to deal with situations, how to help stay focused, how to not interfere with the rest of the class when he gets bored, did amazing things. Not forcing him to be in large crowds and loud situations, letting him test in a quiter environment. All of these simple steps made a huge impact!!!
At first I hated the idea of accomodating him, because in my mind, the world wouldn’t adapt to accomodate him, so I feared that he would expect everyone to accomodate him, so wouldn’t be able to deal in the ‘real world.’ But I also wanted him to do well in school, to be confident, to learn that he has options and could deal with situations that were slightly uncomfortable. But it has worked wonderfully! And what amazed and amazes me is that with these small things, he has learned to adapt. And with maturity, he has learned to deal with the things they accomodated him for, without any accomodations!!! So instead of making him conform, they worked with who and how he is, and he has done nothing but improve over time.
So things are changing. The hardest part is having the extra help when and where it is needed. But they are doing it! They are trying! And so much improved training for the teachers is becoming available too. So they are becoming much more aware that accomodating can be beneficial instead of detrimental to the classroom environment in some situations. It can even build a more cohesive unit out of the students as they all learn to deal with everyones differences. So I can imagine that there are so many more amazing changes coming our way, without a doubt.
You know, this was a point I was trying to make during the ADHD interview, but I didn’t have time for. Even employers can and should accommodate their employees when possible. A little bit goes a long way, and since we are all a bit different, we all need a bit of accommodating. We can deal with each other as human beings, and that means taking a moment to listen, to connect and maybe even to make a change here and there. But it pays off. In school, kids learn better and end up calming down, and at work, people become more effective and happier.
So, it doesn’t matter if someone has ADD or is just not great at math. We’ve become so afraid of going overboard and accommodating people way too much, that we stopped doing it altogether. But, as you said, we’re starting to find our balance now.
Really interesting perspective. I went to private schools all of my life, and you pointed out what some of the biggest differences were between the way I was taught and my public school friends- independant, critical thinking (to a point of course) was encouraged in my schools. There was lots of experiential learning. Students were given a lot of leeway and we weren’t treated like fools or criminals just because we had ‘teen’ after our age.
I’d always been against homeschooling but now I can open up my perspective, at least somewhat. Thanks Melody, as usual 🙂
Thanks for adding your experience Jennifer!
Home schooling can be a great fit for some people. But it’s also a huge commitment and not everyone can afford it, or even wants to. There are so many alternatives and options today. And, of course, the public school system is changing. 🙂
I agree our educational system needs revamping and saw it first hand myself. So many changes from elementary to high school and into college as an adult. By the time I hit college I was 30, but it was so different because in the earlier grades you’re told “what” to do and think, then in college all of us – including the just graduated 18 year olds – are supposed to use common sense and think for ourselves. That was the biggest difference between college and the early grades, at least for me. But college is still too structured. Why did I HAVE to take a foreign language for a Literature degree?
One example – in elementary school you learn Christopher Columbus discovered America. Then in high school, Amerigo Vespucci discovered it and Christopher Columbus was off by about 100 miles or so. Then you learn the Vikings may actually have been here first. Why not just start with the Vikings from the beginning?
I homeschooled my son using similar techniques to what you listed. We had successes, we had failures, but we made it through. He’s 19 now and has a GED and is planning to go to college – his choice – and wants to work with computers. His opinion of homeschooling changes. One day, homeschooling was the best thing we ever did. Another day, he missed out on proms and all this other stuff (he forgets the dances I organized for his homeschool group). But I would do it again. If we’d lived in a larger town, I would have found a co-op school or Montessori school or even a charter school. There are so many different options today and there’s no reason anyone should feel “stuck” in the current system. He says he’ll send his kids to a private school or alternative school and will be an involved parent. That’s one reason I homeschooled – my parents weren’t involved. Education was “the teacher’s job.”
I believe “better late than early.” There’s no reason for a two-year-old to have structured class time. She’s two. She’ll learn her ABCs and her colors eventually. There’s no rush.
The system is being overhauled little by little, and I hope by the time I have grandchildren my son will be able to provide them the best education – for them, not what someone else deems to be “best”.
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 U.S. states and most of Europe, but in countries such as Germany it’s against the law. If your children aren’t in a public education setting you’re breaking the law and parents can be arrested. It’s my hope for the future that everyone, no matter where they live, has the right to educate their children in whatever way they choose.
Thanks for sharing your experiences here! It’s fascinating how your son feels about home schooling.
It’s true the homeschooling is illegal in some countries. But, it’s always possible to change countries. That’s not really that big a deal anymore and if someone feels strongly about it, it is an option. On the other hand, it’s also possible to guide your kids through the public school system. It’s a world of contrast, and if they learn to navigate that, then making peace with the rest of the world will be a snap. In that way, the public school system can be immensely valuable, just the way it is. 🙂
Thank you Melody for this great article and for speaking out on a subject so needing a voice today to aid in its shift. You’re absolutely right on so many points and enjoyed Sir Ken Roberson’s explanation and talk.
Seth Godin has also spoken out on these same lines in his book “Linchpin – Are You Indispensable” and “Stop Stealing Dreams”. He advocates a new way of learning and how we work. It’s creative and innovative and we need to embrace the changes for our children and one another.
There’s a movement going on and it’s starting to pick up speed. I’m excited for the opportunities and possibilities it will bring.
Thanks for pointing out more evidence of how these shifts are happening! I truly think this is the best time ever to be alive. No, now is. Nope, now. Wait, now. Hehehehe.
Yes! This is why I homeschool my children. People were never meant to be standardized. We are all so unique, and the universe needs our unique perspectives and ideas. We aren’t all supposed to think and act the same way. Blech! Boring! Imagination, collaboration, inspiration, self-expression=happiness! 🙂
Don’t the homeschooled get sent the smae work as the children at school?Isn’t this work sent back to teachers following the system, and marked by teachers following the system?
How will they make friends? Half of the motivation at school is seeing friends, helping each other, and learning social skills.
Were you homeschooled?
It sounds lonely to me.
No, actually homeschoolers get to determine their own curriculum in most places. Where I live the only legal requirement that I have to meet is that my children are required to take a standardized test every year. Other than that, we are free to choose what we learn and how we learn it. There are so many resources available, and my children are able to follow their interests. I think that whether a child is involved in a public school, a private school or a homeschool situation, that should be a choice. As far as being lonely, that’s not something we have a problem with! There are many other homeschoolers around that we see on a frequent basis. Sometimes we meet for learning activities, and sometimes just to hang out. Every day the children in my neighborhood who go to public school come over to our house when school is out and they hang out here for hours. So having plenty of friends around has never been an issue for us! I was not homeschooled. My public school experience was ok, but there are things that I went through there that have negatively affected me even to this day. My brother had a much more negative experience that involved bullying, and also being labeled by the system as “slow” simply because he was too shy to read out loud in class. I’m just so thankful that there are people who are willing to explore alternatives and new ideas in regard to what “education” means, and I’m excited for the future and the possibility for change. 🙂
Sorry for the belated reply. I have heard mixed stories, and I am so glad this is working out.
I think this is working because you are very involved as a teacher. Some parents get their kids homeschooled, and they are left with mountains of work to do by themselves in some lonely room.
The parents go out and do whatever they want, and the kid struggles by themselves!
You really should be commended for being so involved and also arranging those social activities. It’s great to see.
I’m sure they will make friends for life, as it’s better to have a friend you choose rather than one that just so happened to be in your class!
Well done, hope it continues to go well.
I think homeschooling or unschooling is a fantastic option for those who can take it. It’s the best teacher/student ratio, lol, and the optimal way for kids to learn on their own, with guidance.
Of course, that’s not a feasible option for everyone, but there are many lessons that homeschoolers can teach the education system. Techniques that can’t be tested in large scale environments (it takes a long time to make large changes on a big scale) have been proven to work by homeschooling parents or smaller, independent schools. The two systems don’t have to be at odds with each other. Information transfer between the two can be helpful. Traditional teachers also have a lot of really useful observations to share… 🙂
Yes, this is interesting.
I have heard mixed stories about it. Just like “regular” school.
Thank you for such an enlightening article. I was doing fine at school until they told me WHAT I was allowed to study, at which point it all went down the toilet. I spent years believing I was stupid, but I wasn’t. Now I have learned to study stuff I love I am anything BUT stupid. I am inspired, I lack qualifications but have creativity to spare. I now adore learning as much as I can every day, like a sponge.
Sadly I work for an employer who believes in the “need to know” philosophy & staff should be seen not heard (& even that’s too much really). There is no chance to be creative, or productive, we are simply told that “this is how it WILL be done”. Needless to say I am now searching for a more enlightening way of earning my daily bread, preferably with lots of learning & creativity chucked in. I am 49 & 3/4 and am looking forward to an exciting future, whatever it may be.
Love your work, keep it up x
thanks so much for validating the post with your own experience. 🙂
Yeah… attract a different job. Just focus on feeling creative and empowered, and as you line up with that energy, your job reality will have to morph. It’s the law. 🙂