Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I've had enough schooling to be dumb

Erik Kennedy, who I work with, said this to me and it occurred to me how right he was, not about him, he is very smart, but about America.  I have noticed America feels we have this god given right to superiority.  Militarily (Duh), Innovatively (Duh), Financially (Duh, oh wait), Democratically (Duh, can you say republic?), Educationally, etc…  Here is the deal though, because we teach to the middle, we are at risk of losing our god given superiority, at risk of becoming slaves to the lowest common denominator and losing our unique style.

I have 3 boys in grade school.  They are good at some subjects, great at others and average at the remaining.  All students are like this it’s just some kids are great, amazing and good at subjects while some are making it, good and struggling with different classes falling into the different buckets.  How do the teachers respond?  Teachers respond by increasing the amount of home work so they can slow down class to focus on the lower performing students so no one gets left behind.  Remember no one gets left behind also means no one gets ahead.  They are even cutting out recess to get more teaching time, like that helps.

This has the unfortunate impact of reducing the amount of free playtime.  That’s why I call it the no child gets to play outside act.  Did you know that grade school boys can only concentrate for 90 minutes before they need to run around and reset themselves?  Girls, 2 hours.  Additionally, free play is where we learn to concentrate for long periods of time.  This is why TV, Internet, and video games are so bad for you they foster short concentration cycles.  Playing imaginary games in the woods with friends takes hours of concentration but disguises it as fun.  Hell, I spent hours, probably months of time, building dams when I was a kid.  Every time there was a stream or river my brother and I built a dam.  When we got board of that, we floated things down the river, probably another few months of my life spent there.  It’s the free time that made me as smart as I am, which, many of you know, is moderate at best, but imagine how dumb I would be if I had spent all my time in class and studying?

This is why Erik’s comment, I have had just enough school to be dumb struck me so.  Kids are actually slowed down to fit with the masses or sped up, depending on the topic, and then specifically pulled out of the most important learning, free time.  Without the combination of formal education and open ended free time you become dumb.  How do you really learn about gravity if it is not by throwing rocks?  You don’t.  Sure you can say you can teach parabolic math to anyone but is it really the same?  Fluid dynamics without sticks and dams?  And worst of all, how do you learn to interact, to negotiate, without all those hours deciding what to do with that glorious free time.  I remember sneaking into the abandoned mining museum, that was so cool, like we were archeologists exploring an unknown civilization.  When was the last time you were an archeologist?  Do it, and smarten up your kids so I get to keep my cheap TVs.