Monday, 7 October 2013

Education: The dumbing down of your child.

The Travesty They Call Education

Learning Problems? It Is Not Your Child's Fault.

There is a raging debate going on at the moment. People are so serious about getting their point of view across in it that they have ranted their opinions on countless websites. The debate centres on the validity of an Einstein quote. You have one group that vehemently claims that the quote is most definitely something that Einstein said, and then you have the other group that says there is no way Einstein would have said something so soppy and commercial.

I only bring this up because my blog is based on this quote, and normally I like to credit the person, if I am using something they have taken the time to conjure up. So with caution, and only because no one has given me an alternative, I will credit Einstein with saying: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” In a way I could just leave my article there and not write another word, as this quote sums up our education system to the 'T'. It pains me to think of the amount of children who were, are and will be damaged by an education system that does not cater to their needs. Reflecting back on my years of teaching, it pains me even more, to think of how many children I didn't give the right aid to, because I did not know any better.

This, maybe-maybe-not Einstein quote has been picked up by many educationists, satirists and cartoonists, mainly because the education system has a lot of disgruntled customers at the moment. One of my favourite interpretations is the one presented below:

I love it because it sums up the standardised assessment procedure and schooling goals in a few words. What saddens me, is that I can tell you right now that there are millions of children, worldwide, that feel just like that fish, dog, seal, penguin and/or elephant in this cartoon. They are given tasks and assessments to do, everyday, that are just too daunting to even consider. Sure the monkey and bird may be happy, but the point of education should be to make everyone happy (besides if you think about it the bird will soon also be unhappy, when he is penalised for cheating, because he will more than likely fly to the top of the tree instead of climbing it). Now, because I believe that all students should have a fair chance, let's turn things around for the fish, seal and penguin and place them at an advantage. Consider this: what if that test had been: 'Everybody must swim across the lake'? Would those three not have excelled then? Precisely! This goes to show that everybody has the ability to shine if they are presented with the correct educational environment. 

We have had hundreds of years where the education system has blamed our children for not achieving, when maybe we should rather be blaming the education system for our children not achieving. The current education system caters for a few, and if your child does not have the learning style that the education system caters for, then they are labeled as being learning impaired, ADD, ADHD, dyslexic, lazy, disinterested, a non-performer and I could go on and on.

Now, before you get your knickers all in a knot, and start emailing me proof of the existence of the above mentioned learning barriers, as a remedial therapist, I am very aware that dyslexia, apraxia etc. are very real problems, but on the other hand I also firmly believe that we as educators have simply not found the correct way to present information to people with these learning barriers. I really do believe that there will come a time when someone, somewhere will find the way that these brains process information and then their true learning will begin.

 The problem we are faced with at the moment is that, unfortunately, until education authorities are willing to admit that everybody's brains process and assimilates information differently, and drives that into their policies; education will continue to fail children all over the world for many reasons. This is beautifully explained in the TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson:

So why start this blog? Seeing as I am a teacher, you would be very right to think that it is pretty much like biting the hand that feeds. You could also accuse me of being a hypocrite, as I work at upholding the policies and laws of a system that I am hugely critical of. I would completely understand your reservations. But I am also a parent, and as a parent of a child that is exposed to this system, I have a real vested interest in trying to drive change. Not only that, as an educator that now knows that there is a better way forward for the wards in her care, I feel that it is my duty to speak out on their behalf and work at exacting change in this outdated and largely defunct system. I live by the saying, 'all that is required for evil (or our current education model) to prevail, is for good men to sit by and do nothing'.

However, at the same time, I do not believe in posing problems just for the sake of ranting and raving. If I am to present a problem to you then it means that somewhere in the deep, dark crevices of my brain I have firm solutions in place, for these problems. In saying that though, I am also a realist, and I know that changing such an entrenched institution is a near to impossible task. First of all, it means changing the mindset of millions of people; people who are by nature very resistant to change, and people that have invested a large portion of their lives driving this system. Second, I also know that humankind can become completely unbalanced when faced with quick, radical changes that they are not really ready for. Third, I am also very aware of the costs that are involved when implementing changes at governmental level, and because of this governments are very anti any type of radical changes, besides that, the government has a huge stake in the education system, they like the education system just the way it is. But, and this is a big but, this doesn't mean that people shouldn't be enlightened to the problems, and it doesn't mean that we should just leave things the way that they are. Drastic change is needed if we are to honour the 'no child gets left behind' policy, and how we drive that change is what this blog is all about.

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