The School Works Collection
The School Works Collection
Kids are kids
Why are schools the way they are? And how long have they been that way?
"Even so great a philosopher as Socrates applied himself to the lyre when he was already advanced in years and turned over his fingers to a teacher for guidance. Meanwhile, our young people, for God's sake, are too lazy and soft to learn, and feel ashamed to be subject to a teacher though they have scarcely been weaned! But they are not to be left to their own judgment; they must be induced through various devices to undertake a good and principled course of studies." (Kallendorf, H.E.T., pg. 33)
That quote was taken from the treatise of humanist Pier Paolo Vergerio around the turn of the fifteenth century. So it seems that children today aren't much different than children were in the time of the Italian Renaissance. And although, teachers bemoan the fact that their students aren't nearly as good as the students were in their day, today's students probably are as good, perhaps better. They may not seem as good because the teachers of today probably were students who did school; therefore, they found school to be largely an enjoyable place of success and reward. If they didn't, they probably would not have chosen to be teachers later in life. Unfortunately, many of today's students probably don't find school to be satisfying in anyway.
School is a strange conglomeration of mixed messages, directions, and ethnic and non-ethnic cultures. School mission statements often hail their efforts to graduate self-directed, life-long learners, but school protocol tells them when to eat, when to go to the restroom, when to stop doing English and start doing mathematics and many times even not to chew gum. Who really believes that a self-directed, life-long learner doesn't know how to chew gum responsibly?
Students are told how important the information that is being delivered to them is, but if a student asks an English teacher a math question hysterics likely ensue and certainly most math teachers would not be able to explain a gerund or a past participle. Even more, if the material is so important, why do teachers have textbooks with the answers in them? At least the teacher of the subject should know all the answers, right?
Think about famous, successful persons. Can any of them explain the process of photosynthesis or use the quadratic equation? How about naming off the amendments to the constitution or stating the atomic number of the element, Na? How did they get to be successful without knowing information like that?
Students of today are not dumber or lazier. In biology class, there was a student who could barely manage a D- in class. He spent much of his time laughing and goofing, or looking for a pencil so that he could do the day's assignment. When he did find the pencil, his next quest was for a book and then paper. With one-third of the period remaining, he would set about doing work, but he could never manage staying on task for more than a minute without some outrageous circumstance foiling his attempt to learn. Basically, most would describe him as a mess. But at night, he and a few others would go about the serious work of committing armed robbery of convenience stores and gas stations. Evidently, the group was quite skilled at what they did because they evaded the police for months and convinced everyone at school, at least the adults, that they were hopeless clowns who couldn't do a thing. With their spoils, they purchased gold teeth and quickly became known as the gold-tooth gang. Successful armed robbery must require planning, attention to detail, and preparedness that certainly went beyond bringing a pencil, book, and paper to class. So how did these high school students do it?
Students of today are not dumber or lazier. Many of them figure out how to work their cell phones to perfection, play