Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Sins of Forced Education

Psychology Today has a blog called Freedom to Learn which is pretty interesting to me. I've linked a post before, and now I'm linking again -- this time to Seven Sins of Our Forced Education System. Like I said in my other post, this is no surprise to me and I think most, if not all of the items, were brought up by John Holt in his book, How Children Fail (this link actually gives you a preview of many of the pages). I loved that book, which I could find my copy of it and all the stuff I underlined. Alas, I cannot, but at least I did some posts early on this blog which quoted some of my favorite passages.

Back to the Seven Sins -- I strongly agree with his second premise:

2. Fostering of shame, on the one hand, and hubris, on the other.
It is not easy to force people to do what they do not want to do....Children are made to feel ashamed if they perform worse than their peers and pride if they perform better....Those made to feel excessive pride from the shallow accomplishments that earn them A's and honors may become arrogant, disdainful of the common lot who don't do so well on tests; disdainful, therefore, of democratic values and processes (and this may be the worst effect of all).

 While I agree that what happens to those who don't measure up is terrible, what happens to those who do is not much better. I think tracking can be useful, but it's not without it's downside. I wonder if some of these successful students don't internalize the constant competition and become somewhat fearful that they will find someone better, smarter, or more accomplished. To look at others as a constant source of competition strikes me as a barrier to healthy relationships. But I'm no pyschologist.

2 comments:

Kyle Tarvin said...

I enjoyed that article, too. Some very salient points, and I really did like his point about the system discouraging natural cooperation and mentoring, even when numerous studies show that we all learn a ton by teaching others. Just ask any homeschooling parent!

MissMookus said...

Or knitter!

One thing I love about learning knitting and crochet as an adult (learning anything, actually) is that it keeps in my mind what it's like to learn and helps me have empathy for my kids. Learning is magic and it probably happens in different ways for different people. For me, learning is not necessarily sequential and it's quite messy and then, all of a sudden, poof! I can do something I couldn't do before.