Change How We Educate

By Debbie Gravett. Debbie, 44 from Johannesburg in South Africa, is a writer and a poet. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

How open is your mind? You might argue that if it is too open what you have inside will fall out, but on the other hand if it is too closed you will fail to consider so many things. Take for example this statement by Henry Ford –

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Think on this for a moment. In a group of fifty people we will probably get ten to fifteen different ideas, maybe even more. How many of those ideas will be futuristic and how many will only consider what they already know? It takes many varied minds to make up the world and there is a place for each one of them. We need those who concentrate on what we currently have and maintaining that so everything doesn’t fall apart, and we need those who look back at the past, not because they are nostalgic and can’t handle modern times, but to try to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes and learn from them. Unfortunately, the adage of history repeating itself is valid because we don’t always listen to the people who know and advise against the same behaviour and actions.

Then, you get those forward futuristic out-of-the-box thinkers. Many are called dreamers, wishful thinkers or nuts. These are the people who have ideas that seem totally absurd and have many of us scratching our heads, not unlike Mr Ford. Who believed that he could take the cart that horses pulled and make it self-powered (and improve its appearance of course)? An inventor who created something that didn’t exist. If he had only worked according to what other people could think of, his vision would have been limited.

Many work for other people and only deliver what is requested from us, either too afraid or not able to think differently. Schools were created to produce factory workers who could follow instructions, not required to think for themselves, they just needed to do what they were told. These times have long passed us by, but I’m not sure that the education system has adapted. We still have factories, but there are fewer and fewer people working in them and the robots are now programmed to do only that which is instructed. People need to think, be creative and inventive. There have always been the exceptions who have brought us the creations that have moved society forward, but I don’t think there are enough schools that are fostering this in the youth of today. Cookie-cutter adults in an evolving world are going to struggle for survival.

So, what will robotic-like graduates be doing where there are no jobs for them? We need to teach our children to think beyond what already exists and to keep their dreams alive. The imagination of little children needs to persist into adulthood where things like flying cars and other modes of amazing transport can become a reality.

The education system needs to develop to cater for the differing avenues that children’s talents and passions draw them to. Not only academic achievements are to be celebrated, but artistic and trades as well. Electricians, mechanics and plumbers will be around for a long time to come. I don’t want to say forever because I refuse to limit the world’s possibilities. We need to expand the box of learning and embrace different styles of learning as well, so that all children could be successful, because rote, repetitive lessons are not beneficial to all. Resources need to be provided to those who retain information by the touch and feel of what is taught.

If we want a generation that can solve the problems of the world and improve what has come before and move us all forward with unimaginable steps, we need to change the way we teach and what we teach them. They need to know how to teach themselves more than how to follow instructions, and how to do research. We are doing them a great disservice by telling them that the teacher’s way is the law. Their understanding needs to be proven to ensure their correct answers are not fluke, but they need to be given latitude for consistently correct answers. Not all children can satisfactorily explain what they understand, but understand it they do, proven by good testing.

What about those children who don’t test well? Should they be penalized? Perhaps another means of ensuring their comprehension needs to be found. Would it be totally inconceivable to consult older children as to how they believe they can demonstrate their knowledge without debilitating anxiety riddled exams?

Perhaps unlike Henry we should ask them but include the knowledgeable educators who can think further than the existing systems, who are willing to try the unimaginable and that which is perceived impossible.

Would it fail our children’s future any more than we are currently?

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