What is “Real Education?”

“It (education) would change before lunch if parents at home cared about real education.”
I saw this posted by a former colleague on a friend’s page in response to an article on the importance of love in education. It struck me immediately for two reasons. First, this is a teacher implying that parents are at fault for the state of education. As a teacher myself I have plenty of experience with parents who feel decidedly opposite. Second, I wondered at the meaning of “real education”.
What is “real education”? Is it the consolidation of students into age grade divisions of economic efficiency based on the factory model? Is it the transmission of the three R’s? Is it the learning that children do every day through free play and social interactions? Is it the modeling we do as parents, teachers, adults and other authority figures and/or role models? What is “real education”?
I’ve written before that what we do in schools is completely unnatural. We expect kids who need to be moving, who need to play, who need to be creative, who need to interact, to sit quietly for periods of time way beyond an adult’s span of attention, provide them information on stuff that may or may not be of any interest or relevance to them, and expect them to learn it. When they don’t, we blame ourselves as teachers for not reaching them, we blame the kids for not doing what we ask, we blame parents for not supporting teachers, or for not providing an environment at home conducive to our instruction. Parents and politicians blame teachers. Teachers and parents blame politicans. We blame poverty and student inattention and behavior and standardized tests and any number of other things. A lot of great teachers I know blame themselves for not finding that magical button to push to reach a student we think we let down.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it is our arrogance as adults that gets in the way of “real education”. We have decided what every child should know and when they should know it. The Common Core is the ultimate in arrogance. Handed down from on high, it provides the standards that everyone should be able to achieve at a given age. Because we all know every child is the same. Every child is capable of learning the exact same thing at the exact same time, and the child’s interest be damned! We know what children need. We know what their real education should be about. Just look at the world today. We know what’s best, and our world today is evidence of that!
What if real education was about allowing a child’s natural curiosity to flourish? What if real education was about allowing the child’s natural desire for social interaction to grow without impediment? What if real education was about allowing children to play as they were designed to do, whether through selection or intelligent design? What if real education grew from everything we knew about child development and psychology, social and otherwise, instead of using what we know to extract as much as we can from children in an artificial and unnatural environment?
We spend a lot of time learning how to motivate children through grades, behaviorism, token economies, even love. I wonder if motivation would be an issue if children were allowed to develop naturally through their own pursuits. What if ‘real education’ began with the child instead of the system?
Doubtless some would grow up not knowing the ‘theme’ of a Shakespearean play. Some would not know how to find the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle. Good lord! Some might not know how to balance a chemical equation!!!!! Unless, of course, they wanted to because they were interested in science or math or literature.
How much better might the world be if ‘real education’ was about children being children and pursuing their own interest in their own time? How much better if children learned who they were instead of who Thomas Edison was? How much better if children learned to advocate for themselves, to solve their own disputes, to learn from those older than them and to nurture those younger? How much better to learn they, not their teachers, their curriculum, their parents were responsible for their actions? How much better if they participated in democratic rule on an equal basis with their teachers, rather than learning that they are powerless before authority granted by title? How much better would the world be if we let children be children? What if “real education” was about the passions of the children instead of the unnatural system that is forced upon them by those who have forgotten what it was like to be a child?


About bjbundy2014

"And for all I know he is sitting there still, under his favorite cork tree, smelling the flowers just quietly. He is very happy." -Munro Leaf in Ferdinand the Bull
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