What do you think? Does testing and memorization ruin the beauty of science?
Michio Kaku states that we are all born scientists, that we all wonder why? We wonder ‘how is that possible?’ He’s absolutely right! Every child is curious about the world. I remember tearing apart dandelions to examine the base of the flower petals. Every puddle still draws me to it, wondering if there are any tadpoles or worms slithering along the bottom.
I do believe this is just one problem that schools face today. To examine even two issues of public education would fill a book, so I’ll just focus on the one that I believe is at the core of them all: Too much emphasis is put on Testing and too little on Character Development. Someone will comment that their school has a character quality of the week and therefore the children are learning about character.
That’s a good start.
It’s my belief that true character is formed on the back of discipline and faith – or the lack thereof . Within the word ‘discipline’ is the word ‘disciple’. A disciple is a student, “one who receives instruction from another”. Therefore, discipline is a lesson that is taught. When a character trait is flawed, it must be corrected. Disciplining a child doesn’t instinctively mean punishment, but a corrective action must take place. That action needs to have meaning.
Just Don’t Kill
The pessimistic side of me fears that Character Development in our American Culture is nearly a lost cause. Political correctness, the span of opinions between the intensely liberal and the overly conservative, and the desire to fit in make it almost impossible for a basic character quality to be agreed upon. But my optimistic side declares that there is hope. Most cultures believe it is wrong to kill. Telling lies is generally viewed as bad. Being independent and intelligent are desired, but the means to gain these character qualities is being forgotten. But we have the ‘no kill’ agreement. That’s a start.
Mr. Kaku calls the years of junior and senior high school the ‘Danger Years’. In an education system that houses 200-500 students of any particular age level, what else can be expected? Going back to the beginning of time, people aren’t meant to be grouped in large numbers with people their own age. The results are disastrous! If you disagree, read Lord of the Flies or go visit your neighborhood school and watch what happens when the teacher’s back is turned. Based on the souls that are forever wounded during these years, that ‘no kill’ quality appears to be lacking.
The Death of a Soul
Speaking from my own experiences, high school was not an academic pursuit. It was a social endeavor. An obstacle course of clothing, economic status, country-club memberships, and brands. That, I believed, was the stuff people were made of. There were, of course, exceptions to those rules, but they were few. How much more has this worsened with the onslaught of technology? Cell phones with cameras and video capabilities that catch every person’s nightmare, sharing it on social media in an extended version of global bullying.
I remember a beautiful girl from my high school who came out of the bathroom with her skirt tucked into her panties. It was horrifying for her, but thankfully a good friend rushed up and corrected the problem, quickly tugging at her skirt to fix it before too many boys saw. Everyone’s face burned with embarrassment for her. No one would have ever thought of taking a picture and posting it anywhere. That idea never even occurred to us. But that is the norm now. And what do the adults do about it?
Bullying makes the headlines. Taunts and language do break bones, no matter what childhood poems say. Bullying kills the soul. It can also kill the person. Many bullied students can’t cope and end their life.
“Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.” http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullying-and-suicide.html
- Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24. (2010 CDC WISQARS)
- Suicide is the THIRD leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18. (2010 CDC WISQARS)
- More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
Education, Basic Needs and Eric:
When I did my student teaching, I went downtown to a public school and worked in the kindergarten room. Many of the children were bright and eager to impress the teacher, to learn how to read, to do the crafts, to play with others. But there was one boy, Eric, who miraculously made it to school every day on his own accord. His mother, whom I met at parent-teacher conferences, had needle marks up both arms. With a toothless smile, she openly shared that her profession was the oldest profession.
Her son came to school dressed, but usually not dressed well enough to protect him from the winter winds, nor were his clothes always clean. He came to school for breakfast and lunch. Numbers and letters meant nothing to him. After breakfast, while the other children huddled around my chair for a story, Eric was usually asleep in the reading corner. With his belly full and his little fingers and toes warmed, his eyes finally rested in the only safe place he knew.
The basic needs of food, water and shelter must all be met before an education is possible. I don’t know what Eric learned that year. I do know that I will never forget him.
True education happens in small groups or in one-on-one mentoring situations, but mentorship is a dying entity. The “flowers of curiosity” that Mr. Kaku mentions in the video don’t just keep blooming from childhood into adulthood. They must be nourished and tended. Safe environments, encouraging mentors, availability to classical literature and quiet hours spent without music or distractions are what makes a student a scholar.
There are facts to learn and poetry and formulas worth memorizing. But not for the purpose of passing a test and not at the expense of failing in character to make the grade. What do our children truly need to learn except to learn how to learn? What more do they need than the desire to enhance their minds? My answer: First, they need to know it’s possible. Second, a mentor to show them what it looks like to learn. And third, the time and space to learn.
They need mentors. Not ‘Danger Years’.
Let this be your next experiment: What would happen if children read classical literature and studied any subject of interest to them? How would that impact their education and love of learning if they did that for three months? What would the ‘beauty of science’ look like in that environment?