Monday, December 20, 2010

Thoughts on Education

Disclaimer: Now that I'm officially in my 80s, I need to realize that I just don't see things the way the next generations do, but I'm honor bound to share a bit of general philosophy that I only hope does not get lost as time goes by.

Premise: I've been reading lately about the horrible placement on a global marking system the United States holds. And that Asian countries are far and above us in intelligence and performance.

Question: Just as we constantly debate the "nature vs nurture" question, are we sure that we want to emulate those who test better than our kids do? Has it occurred to our politicos who are up in arms about the results how any one group arrives at the final ranking? In other words, does it occur to them that many of the Asian countries are Communist? That the talented children are taken from their homes to lead lives without any outside activity other than learning facts, figures and perhaps, theories? (The parents of Asian kids who top the scales in the U.S. also put top priority on education.) The other option is to be put in those classes or left in their homes where they will lead lives of "service" to the elites?

Can the other side of the coin be found in taking the theories and bringing them into the market place as a product or a new way of looking at a problem where it is more important to solve the problem than to be rewarded for the intelligence used to arrive at the conclusion? At one point in time everything from automobiles to electronics were invented in the U.S. and the production (also methods adopted from those developed in the U.S.) was refined elsewhere.

Granted we didn't invent "everything" but you see what I mean.

Take it a step further. Would we give up the freedoms and opportunities we have for a rigid society where individual thought is stifled? Would you give up taking your children to the zoo, Disneyland, the park or just over to Grandma's house for the chance to send them to a boarding school where they always wear the same clothing, eat the same food, take the same classes, their futures are predetermined according to IQ tests, etc.?

Does anyone younger than I remember lying on new mown grass in the middle of summer looking at the skies at night for Northern lights and shooting stars and catching lightning bugs in jars or in the daytime recognizing patterns in the clouds of watching a storm move across the horizon? Would you deny your children that kind of opportunity?

I just can't help wondering if curiosity is one of the missing elements in the education of our kids.... I wonder if ideas aren't more important than memorization. I believe I have shared with you early on that other than "Everything I needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" to my high school debate squad and the Senior Govt/Econ teacher who taught that it wasn't "what you know, but knowing where to find it" is the key to education. And now you have the internet and computers! What largess!

And at this Christmas season it should go without saying that the freedom of religion sets us apart from many of the other parts of the world where it might be said that education is their religion. That topic could take up many more pages, but I leave it to you to determine its importance in your life.

That being said, this is the last week of Advent--the preparation for the commemoration of the birth which is the "reason for the season" and I wish you the most blessed of Christmases.

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