“Too often we give children answers to remember than problems to solve.” –Roger Lewin
Under the scorching heat, sitting beside his farm, he kept waiting for clouds to show up and when they didn’t he glanced at the sky, “Why? Why are you doing this with me?”
Few days pass by and the rains finally came, but with heavy downpour and rising water-level every moment he again resorted to blame things on the one and only, but rains didn’t stop and in the end crops couldn’t survive.
The man blamed it all on the one who created the heaven and land and continuously complained about it.
One day while staring at his farm as he complained again he actually got a reply. The clouds roared and there was an announcement from the heavens, “The next year the rains will come upon as you please, the winds will blow as you wish and the sun will follow your command.”
The next year came and true to what was announced when he called upon rain it came. He merrily began with the procedures and the time passed without real troubles, the winds didn’t destroy the crops neither the rain nor the high temperature.
Came the time for cutting the crops but he found that the stack of crops on his back weighed nothing and upon inspection he realized there weren’t any grains in the crops.
“Why?” The famer called upon the heavens in distress and this time the clouds roared and again there was an announcement, “You didn’t face any hardship for the produce that’s why there is no fruit.”
Just like the story in reality there is no yield, progress, development until one faces hardships and overcomes them. In this sense, the current culture which is suppressing the problem solving is painful. We all have turned into that farmer, specifically children and students. This is problematic because without problems a person can’t grow as an individual. The curiosity and the wish to learn die with direct answers in one’s hands. This way one is bound to develop the habit of always getting the solution and when one stumbles upon a real problem and don’t have the answer directly it will give rise to impatience eventually leading one to be a quitter. It all happens from one mistake of cutting out on problem-solving, a.k.a. killing the creativity of younger ones.
So, who’s guilty?
Internet and Guides. Check.
They are limiting our minds, taking away our capability to find a solution on our own.
Bound by the system which looks at the number on the mark-sheet in an attempt to increase that they also cut-out on giving problems.
They just want to make it easy for their younger ones.
Children. Double check.
It takes two to tango. If the above things are one side of this problem, the acceptance of it by children is an even huger problem. Apart from exceptions no one actually focuses on it.
Let me exemplify myself on this matter, from the first to the fifth standard I knew examinations tested what was taught but I didn’t realize the thing that studying is about assessing what you learnt through discussions, doing your own research till very late. Yes, I am the one who has been given the internet at the tips of my finger and I use it for the purpose of just completing my work. Back then I didn’t even know what was solving or trying to solve it yourself until teacher did it on the blackboard. It was in third standard that I came to know that mathematics isn’t about remembering the solution rather than about finding it.
I am still a student, and one by no means can consider me a problem-solver, yet I am still an above-average student. Though it isn’t surprising because I can easily remember things as well as cram them when necessary just I have done this for such a long period of time that majority of time I still look it up on the internet or find answers in the guide than to come to come up with conclusion myself. In my defence, well, I have only two things to say: first, I was brought up this way and secondly, this saves me a lot of time and saves me from thorough considering.
My brother doesn’t like this system. In his words, taking examinations is more about what is your memory power than anything else, this doesn’t prepare you for the world and yet you are required to parrot things, spit them in an answer sheet and get a degree to prove your worth. Your ideas and intellect are suppressed and it doesn’t even matter.
Do I think his assessment is correct?
Yes, he is more or less right.
Not assessing things, not using our brains and never being trained to do that, I know them but I don’t understand them. In my English teacher’s words, the operation is successful (we fill out the papers or remember the information) but the patient dies (we don’t gain any real knowledge). The problem with this method of bringing up is that with dead patients on the record no hospital is going to take us in. In simpler words, the future is all about problem solving and how efficiently one can do it.
The author of a newspaper blog that I follow described it correctly: don’t ask your children what do they want to become for this world is changing dramatically and the jobs we know today won’t be there in near future; rather question what do they want to do and how are they going to do it.
Of course, remembering things is equally necessary as it is way more efficient to just simply remember that 14 times 3 is 42 than to solve it again and again, or give it directly to children than to try and explain it to a child who doesn’t even know what multiplication is.
Under this light there is nothing wrong with providing them with the answer that 14 times 3 is 42 and later let them reach the conclusion themselves by solving/understanding it. Trouble is with the wrong amount of proportion between giving answers and problems to the children, since majority is about giving answers which aren’t understood and when this happens it means that they won’t be able to use this knowledge in real world, for problem-solving is all about using prerequisite knowledge and presence of mind to make connections and reach a solution.
Then unhealthy habit of answering and just asking them to remember it also hinders their thinking capacity putting barriers around their mind. So, one will have the knowledge but won’t be able to apply it and it is said rightfully, the knowledge without application is equivalent to having no knowledge at all.
It is upsetting, there are those who are fighting for this sort of learning and there are those fighting to survive with this learning.