Good Education Manages To Look Easy
Category : Education
posted Date :
Total No.of views :
Total No.of Comments :
0 / 5 (0 votes)

Good Education Manages To Look Easy
A century ago, progressive education introduced a fundamental mistake into the public schools.
Basically, the mistake is that you do kids a favor by deleting content, diminishing substance, and simplifying everything as much as possible.
Here was the theory: if schools wanted all children to become more deeply involved in education, the best way to accomplish this feat was to make everything more kid-friendly, more fun, more like a walk in the park than anything strenuous or difficult. The result was an ersatz kind of easy.
An interesting feature of these progressive ideas is that schools give up before the first day of school. There is total surrender, as if to say: These kids aren’t very smart and probably won’t learn much, so why make them feel bad?
Traditional classrooms aimed high, with the understanding that only some children would get A’s. The rest of the class would master a portion of the material, and get B’s, C’s and D’s. Everyone knew how well they had done.

So the progressive approach has two obvious drawbacks. Nobody is being pushed to go above a mediocre level. And nobody has any sure sense of where they stand. If every student has an A, which students have actually learned the subject? Nobody knows.
But the most profound flaw was noted at the beginning--that you should try to pull children into education by dumbing-down education. This is a glib superficial solution and finally a destructive one. If you dumb-down education, you will end up with millions of dumbed-down students. That is the outcome we are now living with.
The proper solution is to organize education so that it FEELS effortless to the students. The school aims high but is crafty and patient in reaching its goals. In short, good education appears to be easy education (not the painful chaotic mess we too often see).
Let’s look at the two approaches side-by-side. Suppose the subject is geography. The progressive classroom announces, Learning the names of the states is a waste of time.The kids sigh with relief. They are kept busy learning nothing. Forty years later they are still paying for this dumbing-down.
The smart, effective school starts teaching the states in kindergarten and first grade. There is a lot of talk about ones hometown and state. And what about the states next to our state? And where have you traveled?
In second and third grade, teachers (often pointing to maps) introduce states still further away. Meanwhile, children are asked to draw the outline of their own state and nearby states.
So children are thoroughly saturated in American geography (let’s say for an hour each week) in an ever widening spiral. By the fifth grade, most children would know the names of the states without even knowing they had learned them, in the same way they know the names of the football teams in the NFL.
And finally we reach the goal, in the seventh or eighth grade, where every student knows the states and can write the names on an outline map of the USA. If the school is crafty and patient, this is a very reasonable goal. Now children will be more effective students of history, environmental science, current events, and anything else.
The big point: these students would not have a sense of being burdened, of being asked to do something difficult. The educational process would happen almost without their knowing that it was happening. And this patient, incremental technique can be used in all of education. Kids can learn to count in the first grade by making change with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. Children can learn history by learning about their own city and state. Events there give children a sense of time and place which can be transferred to other periods.

The fundamental strategy is to break subjects down into bite-sized morsels that every child can savor. You try to build a sense of momentum. You try to make kids feel like winners
In every subject, for every class, there will be points of resistance where children start to doubt they know what’s going on. Teachers should back off, focus on something else, go around the point of resistance. The trick is to push but with flexibility and creativity. 
Much more could be done in our schools but we seem to have people in charge who actually scorn education; so they come up with pretentious psychobabble in defense of methods that blatantly dont work.
Arguably, progressive theories are the kiss of death in the classroom. Most of the theories were devised to serve collectivism, not teaching, so  we should not be surprised when learning suffers.
There is a science to teaching, to organizing and presenting material. This quest can be quantified in a loose way. Suppose you have 100 facts you want to teach to 100 kids in 100 days. Whats the most efficient way to do this?? That`s a fascinating question! Thats what our Education Establishment should be dealing with, as opposed to dreaming up excuses for doing nothing.
Finally, I need to add a disclaimer. This article is about the great mass of ordinary students. As for smarter students, certainly you can push them much harder; they will probably regard it as fun. Indeed, think of football teams and other athletic endeavors. The children are worked hard and pushed. But they perceive it as reasonable. They understand why they have to run laps. So pushing students, even ordinary students, is not the sin. Its pushing students in an incoherent, inefficient way that goes nowhere.
All the really bad methods beloved by our Education Establishment simply overwhelm children with unnecessary, illogical labor. Just look at Whole Word and Reform Math. Neither method has ever looked or felt easy to a single kid.