© Futureandminds.com 2015
For me it is always a rather surprising fact that in spite of the results of neuroscience and many experts who have been stating it for decades, one thing never seems to change.
The way we teach and test our children. Believe it or not, but this topic was already discussed back in 1898.
By the way – we are aware a whale is not really a “fish”, but a mammal. However this article picture is talking through a metaphor and since the whale’s face just perfectly expresses the situation – we could not resist to commit a bio- “logical” mishap.
www.quoteinvestigator.com has identified an essay called “An Educational Allegory” which was published in the “Journal of Education” in 1898.
As it is stated by quoteinvestigator the essay emphasized the absurdity of using a single, inflexible standard for assessing the achievement of each individual student.
Here is the excerpt offered on their page:
A long time ago, when the animal creation was being differentiated into swimmers, climbers, fliers, and runners, there was a school for the development of the animals. The theory of the school was that the best animals should be able to do one thing as well as another; and if there was an apparent aptitude in a given animal for doing one thing and an apparent inaptitude for doing other things, the time and effort should be spent upon the latter instead of the former.
If one had short legs and good wings, the attention should be given to running so as to even up the qualities as far as possible. So the duck was kept waddling instead of swimming, the pelican was kept wagging his short wings in the attempt to fly. The eagle was made to run and allowed to fly only for recreation, while maturing tadpoles were unmercifully guyed for being neither one thing nor another.
All this in the name of Education.
Nature was not to be trusted in her makeup of individuals, for individuals should be symmetrically developed and similar for their own welfare as well as for the welfare of the community. The animals that would not submit to such training, but persisted in developing the best gifts they had, were dishonored, called narrow-minded and specialists, and special difficulties were placed in their way when they attempted to ignore the theory of education recognized by the school.
No one was allowed to graduate from that school unless he could climb, swim, run, and fly at a certain prescribed rate. So it happened that the time taken by the duck in learning to run the prescribed rate had so hindered him from swimming that he was scarcely able to swim at the prescribed rate, and in addition he had been scolded, threatened, punished, and ill-treated in many ways so as to make his life a burden, and he left school humiliated, and the ornithorhyncus could beat him either running or swimming. Indeed, the latter carried off the prize in two departments.
The eagle made no headway in climbing to the top of a tree. Though he showed he could get there just the same, the performance was counted a demerit, as it had not been done in the prescribed way.
An abnormal eel with large pectoral fins proved he could run, swim, climb trees, and fly a little; he was made valedictorian.
End of excerpt.
So this topic has been discussed during several generations. How much longer will we need to adapt?
Below you can find quotes of great minds of the past and current experts in the field.
1) Alvin Toffler
Toffler is frequently cited as stating: “Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to unlearn.”
Furthermore, he stated “Perhaps the greatest cost of wave conflict in America will be paid by the millions of children currently compulsorily enrolled in schools that are attempting to prepare them – and not very successfully at that – for jobs that won’t exist. Call that stealing the future.”
So his lesson is all about having flexible minds, always adapting to change and not sticking to the rules of the past, but looking out for what works today and tomorrow. Schools seem not necessarily to do that.
2) John and Doris Naisbitt
“In a world that is constantly changing, there is no one subject or set of subjects that will serve you for the foreseeable future, let alone for the rest of your life. The most important skill to acquire now is learning how to learn.”
So this message of the Naisbitt’s sounds very similar as Toffler’s. It is not about storing data, especially old data, but about the one skill, being able to adapt any new knowledge which is important here and now.
3) Walt Disney
By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“Crowded classrooms and half-day sessions are a tragic waste of our greatest national resource – the minds of our children.”
Disney seems to be concerned about the minds of children losing the creativity most. Of course a skill which he considered most important doing what he did. And it is obvious that the school favors left brain activity a lot over right brain activities.
4) Jiddu Krishnamurti
“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
A deeper approach to learning is to be seen by Krishnamurti. He uncovers that most of the separations set out by the human mind are illusions. Like school or university is for studying and afterwards is a time for simply relaxing, no learning involved.
In fact, whatever we do causes new neural pathways in our brain, hence learning is taking place. In and outside the schoolroom. And maybe the incidental learning taking place outside a formal curriculum where dopamine created by individual interest sponsors the learning to a much higher efficiency than formal learning, without inner true interest of the students.
5) Alfie Kohn
“The more we want our children to be (1) lifelong learners, genuinely excited about words and numbers and ideas, (2) avoid sticking with what’s easy and safe, and (3) become sophisticated thinkers, the more we should do everything possible to help them forget about grades.”
This is an interesting view pointed out by Kohn. We all know that cramming for an exam often enough is only for receiving a good grade, but not for real true learning of a skill. True learning of any new skill has its own pace and should rather be fertilized diligently. As a flower cannot be forced to bloom in the winter, the same applies to learning. The skill reaps silently and will not accept examination dates as the conductor of blossoming.
6) Khalil Gibran
Khalil Gibran writes in his famous poetic essays called “The Prophet”:
“No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge. The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.
If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.”
Now this is a rather spiritual and contemplative perspective for learning. Basically, it means you cannot teach anybody anything, if they do not carry the seed inside themselves already. So Gibran’s view of teaching is more like being a guide to the own knowledge awakening students possess inside. And if we take a closer look at the origin of the word education it reveals a very similar story. Education comes from the Latin word “educere”, which means “to draw forth or bring out, as something potential or latent; elicit; develop”. Clearly the same perspective as Gibran’s can be identified here.
7) John Holt
“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions — if they have any — and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.”
John Holt supports a non-interference attitude of parents and teachers, trusting the normal and natural learning abilities of the human brain. Avoiding to ask the same standardized skill of anyone, but paying attention to the natural skills and talents of children may just make them more aware of their own unique skills in an early age and open the path to true mastery and dream job, where activity is nourished by interest, passion and bliss.
The brain has its own way to reward this kind of learning by flooding the brain with loads of dopamine. Legal doping for learning. Doesn’t that sound like a promise?
So now that you have heard the opinions of great minds of the past and current experts I would like to know: do you share their opinion or do you think their perspective is not in sync with the demands of today’s world?
To your learning and teaching success,