I’ve recently started reading Seth Godin’s manifesto aptly titled, Stop Stealing Dreams and already I am beginning to feel the heat rise inside as I read through each numbered section. One area that immediately jumped out at me is this:
We spend a fortune teaching trigonometry to kids who don’t understand it, won’t use it, and will spend no more of their lives studying math. We invest thousands of hours exposing millions of students to fiction and literature, but end up training most of them to never again read for fun (one study found that 58 percent of all Americans never read for pleasure after they graduate from school). As soon as we associate reading a book with taking a test, we’ve missed the point.
This resonated with me because I saw it happen in my own house with my son. My son was an avid reader, happy to go with me to pick more books from the book store. Until 5th grade. Until book reports that he had to write every 6 weeks. My daughter, thank God, is still reading voraciously but even she, a current 6th grader has said to me, “I can’t wait until we can read for fun again.” Doesn’t that just say it all?
Another point that Godin makes is this
For a long time, there was an overlap between the education that the professions rewarded and the education that we might imagine an educated person would benefit from. Tied up in both paths is the notion that memorizing large amounts of information was essential. In a world where access to data was always limited, the ability to remember what you were taught, without fresh access to all the data, was a critical success factor.
And now, with many children and schools having access to smartphones, laptops, desktops, internet, memorization is no longer necessary. Who really needs to memorize the facts when one can easily Google or Bing those same facts? Now, I will say that there are some things that children should just know off the top of their head because they just should: math facts, multiplication of numbers to 12, spelling of regularly used words (yes, spell check works, but you have to be pretty close to correct for spell check to have an idea of the word you were trying to spell in the first place), and other basic facts. But, memorizing dates to spit out on tests is not going to help make them a good citizen in the world. Knowing how and where to find the answer, how to problem solve, be self-sufficient, how to work together with other people will.
I am only about a quarter of the way through this manifesto, and some of the ideas may not sit with everyone, but it certainly got me thinking in it’s easy to read, provocative way.
So, click on this link and let me know what you think, are schools preparing students for our future or theirs?