So Help Me Understand: What Is It They Are Teaching Our Kids?

Albert Einstein About Technology

I remember when I was going to school and how I felt about the teachers that I had. Although it was a while ago I can still remember the respect I had for most of them. As I got older and moved into high school I still felt the same but not for as many. It seemed there were more teachers who didn’t quite present the same sense of urgency and desire to share the knowledge that I believed they were there to impart–their hearts didn’t seem to be in it. I have come to understand that they were but casualties of the system. They were expected to put out what they were told was relevant and that change was a good thing. I once read that the only thing for sure is change will happen. However, the changes that have been made that involve school curricula have taken us down a path that has been nothing but a failure. The scheduled changes, I fear, will not fare much better. Part of being responsible educators, it seems to me, is about recognizing mistakes, admitting them, correcting them and then moving on. I am not looking for perfection but rather honesty and leadership.

There was a time when our educational system and our world ranking kept us ahead of the pack. Those very standards have slipped more than dramatically and still the brilliant minds that shape our learning experiences continue to defend thinking that has proven to be more than defective and without vision. When we look at what has happened we see that the testing standards and outcome expectations have decreased substantially. We are more worried about a students self esteem then we are his/her capability to learn and to compete. You can’t spend self esteem and it, alone, will not get you a job or prepare it’s owner for the future.

Not so many years ago students could not bring any electronic devices into a classroom and certainly not during a test or exam. Now they are encouraged to do so because the process of finding the answer is not as important as being able to come up with the right answer. I was taught that if you understood the process then you could apply that process to find the answer to almost every similar problem you face. Teach someone how to hunt and he will always be able to feed his family. Give him dinner and he only learns how to eat.

What would happen to us if suddenly there was no power to drive our computers and our electronic gadgets?? The educational system and the wizards that direct it don’t encourage the simplest of math skills–addition, subtraction, multiplication and division skills and the theory behind them. Some kids find it difficult to read at more than a ‘Dick and Jane’ level, to write at basic levels let alone create complex sentences, articles or passages one might find at the university level. Spelling is a joke–spell check is quicker. And now they have turned their attention to writing skills and have decided not to continue to teach our kids how to perform the most basic writing tasks by limiting the time spent on cursive skill development. It’s surprising how many kids can’t even fill out a cheque or manage a cheque book. Now they are also considering eliminating the need for homework and lessening the possibility of rote learning. How do we help our children understand that success takes some work and that it will not always be given to them. It wont be from a system that was once a leader in education and our pride in the world. Other nations are more likely to look at what we are doing regarding education and do the opposite. We worry more about how many students we can claim graduate and not the standard that is shrinking to attain those numbers.

So where will our ‘graduates’ find work in the future? Will they be able to work in a foreign country? Will they be able to compete right here at home with foreign students who are likely to be more competitive and better prepared for the workplace? What will they be able to teach their kids? What skills will they bring to the table? It has been our high standards and our doggedness to detail that have created and brought forth the thinkers, the writers, the poets and the dreamers–the creators that have separated us from many other countries.

I don’t blame anyone for this mess and certainly not our teachers. This is a systemic problem. Currently the system is showcasing a group of tired thinkers too stubborn to reach out to fresh ideas. Perhaps it’s time to include a broader based influence group to help the tired. We need to hear from the captains of industry, labour leaders, ceo’s, international players, legal and social representatives. Not only do we need to hear them but they need to have some power and influence in the development of curricula. They are the ones who really understand what the world looks like, where it is going and how we need to function to get back to the top of the list of first world nations who lead the way to success with passion and compassion. The system needs a new vision.

Take a good look at the photo at the top of this page and read again the quote by one of the greatest minds of our time and then think about where your kids are going and how prepared they will be to be a world citizen and to contribute on, at least, a basic level playing field with kids from other nations.

That’s how I see it, anyways–Jim

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