I’ve asked many high school graduates what their school experience was like. The most common answer was, “I learned a bunch of stuff”.
Stuff is an apt word because, aside from referring to things that are non-essential, its verb form carries the connotation of thing’s being crammed, or stuffed in. We see around us the effects of this education on society in a lack of connection, a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of interest.
“A mile wide and an inch deep”, is a familiar phrase, which aptly characterizes the current approach to education. This indicates that we are going in the wrong direction. We are going laterally, trying to cover an ever-increasing amount of ground. Instead we should be moving vertically, going deeper, not just into the subject matter, but also reaching toward the sources of the child’s interest and enthusiasm.
Less emphasis should be placed on what we teach, the curriculum. More attention should be directed toward how we teach, the pedagogy. Then, what we do teach of the curriculum will have a far more beneficial effect on the children.They will remember more, too. One way to put it is that we reach through the curriculum to the children. Knowledge of the curriculum is not an end in itself, but a useful means of stirring the capacity for learning. The sad thing is that nearly any subject could be made interesting to children. Unfortunately, nearly any subject can also be made uninteresting.
For a student to thrive, both in school and apart from school, we must first gain their attention, stir their interest and touch their sense of wonder and imagination. This is essential in the lower primary grades, and, hopefully, this will continue throughout the grades. A strong start is vital. Working in this way not only enlivens the children, but also teachers and parents. It is not hard to imagine that this relationship works synergistically, leading to increased interest, creativity and enthusiasm in all concerned.