What Has Education Lost?

Do you remember when you were little? We eagerly anticipated being “big enough” to attend school. Sometimes it was because there were few other children around, but mostly because we wanted to learn, to be like those who were older and knew the mysteries of reading, writing and math. In the days before preschools being for everyone, we entered kindergarten for half days. We played house or store or with blocks, slathered paint on paper to create out masterpieces, mashed clay into ropes and blobs that became something to us, listened to music and danced if there was space, had a “rest” (but I think that was for the teacher instead of us), and the teacher read to us. Eventually, we began to learn to read toward the end of the year.

Schools still offer the magnet to the young of being able to be with others their own ages, to play in safe areas, and to learn. They still play with others, but most of their days are sitting at desks. They begin to learn to read and write at the beginning of kindergarten which they often attend for full days. But what has been lost?

I no longer see the “magic” of what schools could offer: using their creativity and imagination in play or art. To some extent, there is joy of learning, but the pressures of test scores makes it more work than joy because many students are not developmentally ready for what is presented to them. We used to desire to achieve, but now the expectations are so high that many give up before the end of third grade.

This push for educational “excellence” is supposedly to develop opportunities for individuals’ futures in the workforce. The actual result is that many are averse to and resist any form of school. Their poor grades and/or drop-out status make them ineligible for advanced training or higher education. In the logic of legislators who control education, everyone should go to college. The result is “watered-down” college preparation classes (which are actually useless in preparing students for college) and an absence of vocational exploration opportunities. Everyone used to take shop and/or home economics courses in high school where we prepared for independent living (taking care of feeding and clothing the family and learning how to safely use tools to repair things around the house). Those classes are rapidly disappearing, only to resurface in different forms at the vocational or technical college level. That is where many attend because they are forced to because they can get government assistance as long as they are in school.

The problem with the current goals for education is that it has lots a humanness that allowed everyone to be successful in areas of their interests, talents and skills. What is there for the artistically or musically inclined individuals? What is there for those who think multi-dimensionally and can create or envision structures, packaging, or machines?

Education teaches to the “average” – do you know anyone who is consistently “average” in anything? Education is not a product on an assembly line, so the quality control measures cannot be the same for everyone. The raw materials (student entering school) at any given point are not uniform and “perfect”, because we all develop at different rates and at different times.