Education: At the Core   Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I’ve written a personal post, and I think, time for another one 🙂

I am still committed to my news project, and will try to post at least three times a week. I will be busier for the next month so preemptive apologies for the lack of posts! In general, in all of my posts, I am trying to tie in solid evidence/relevant news to place my perspective into the bigger picture. Though I write about my thoughts and speculations, these nice, pretty ideals have no weight if they are not grounded. There are times when ideals provide clarity about important issues, but to neglect the reality surrounding an issue is to be needlessly ignorant and irresponsible.

Onwards. As I embark upon another year of what is now expected of young people to fulfill, sixteen years of processing via the education system, I yet again am hopeful that the coming year will impress upon me new insight and wisdom. I have found, time and time again, that the entire concept of education has been shoved into ill-fitting boxes and packed away. I learned several things in six years (including kindergarten) of elementary school. First, my multiplication tables. Second, and more importantly, how to interact with respect other people. Third? To be afraid of making mistakes. Education is productive, is it not?

Each and every child is born with an innate curiosity, this gravitation towards knowledge. The first time you roll over and see if you can stand on hands and knees, and reach forward with one hand and move yourself in a specific direction. When you move your lips to make noises that mimic the sounds coming from those around you.

What does it mean to be educated? To be educated is to be curious. To be educated is to possess an ability to learn.

Thus, the primary intention of education is to nurture curiosity and to cultivate learning potential. (Which are really one and the same). Give a man a fish and you feed him for one day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

The former is the root from which the latter grows. And fearlessness is the water and sunshine that nourishes this growth.

From a small age, we are taught to not touch things we don’t know about, like his computer, the butter knife on the counter, the glasses. And these warnings are necessary for the safety of children and for the safety of others. If you spell color with two ‘l’s, that is incorrect, and requires correction. But at the same time, these warnings chip away at a childishly innocent confidence. I have watched as many of my childhood classmates fade from vibrant, quirky, unique children into jaded, tired, uninspired high schoolers. This trend is distinctly irrelevant to race, gender, and socioeconomic class.

Mistakes and success are two sides of the same coin. And the fear of the former is hindering our ability to achieve the latter. I can’t put my finger on when this fear sets in. As a teacher, a student, and a peer, I hurt when others’ failures lead them to despair, and I marvel at the transformation that accompanies real, vibrant curiosity.I have a unique perspective in that in the last decade, I have taught math from elementary level to first or second year college level to students of various ages.  Math is the most technical core subject; correctness is black and white. And yet, even when covering difficult topics, I have found ways to reinvigorate students. I have watched many a time, as a student not only improves significantly in their math skills, but also improves significantly in their confidence and eagerness to learn. The change is apparent when a student encounters a new problem. Instead of staring blankly at this unfamiliar sight and asking for help, they will attempt to tackle the problem from the approaches they do know, ask specific strategic questions, and ask the teacher not to solve the problem because they think that with their own capabilities plus a little nudge in the right direction, they can solve the problem themselves. So this vivacity and attraction to learning is something children are born with but lose at a young age, and possibly can regain.

The childhood mantra, “Why?”, of asking questions is something painfully misunderstood. Suppose we think of learning as trying to climb a tree. Both are trying to climb to top. One person tries one way, reaches a point where the next branch is too far away, climbs down. S/he tries a different approach, and again cannot find a way up. Staring at the peak, s/he decides one way is more easily conquerable, and makes some progress, before asking for a hand up from her/his mentor. Her/his mentor directs her/him to find a branch on her/his left side that s/he ought to be able to reach if s/he is careful. Another person stares at the top, cannot see an easy way to scale the tree, and asks her/his mentor to carry him up.

Asking why is only half of the story. It’s irresponsible to resort to the latter without trying the former. We live in a society that is accustomed to handing out free lunch to children. With a heavy dose each of lenience and bureaucracy, we call this ‘education’. The more free lunch is available, the less individuals are inclined to work for achievement.

And without the responsibility behind inquisitive minds, there is no substance or support to such curiosity, no backbone. While this responsibility can be cultivated, ultimately an individual is responsible for his or her own capacity to grow. With this in mind, I look forward to challenging myself in new directions in the coming year.

– Aderyn

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Posted August 6, 2014 by aderyngrace in Education

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