My seven year old daughter is currently a second grade student at an Oakland public school. She carries with her a pleasant and independent spirit which can be at times difficult to harness, but is most often a joy to watch as it unfolds.
My daughter came to me one Saturday morning and excitedly exclaimed, “Mommy, I know there are only twenty-eight days in February, because Ms. Perrones told me.”
I remained in a state of stoic shock, and quiet contemplation, as the weight of her words resonated in my mind. Time seemed to stand still as a montage of days gone past played across my mind like a silent movie. I watched with silent approval as my daughter hung her own calendar on the wall, and diligently checked off each day as it passed. I saw myself encouraging her older brother to follow her example of keeping track of events by immediately writing them down on the calendar as soon as she heard about them. I could see the pride radiating from my beaming smile as my daughter shared news and events from her calendar with the rest of the family. As I brought myself back the present moment, I could tell my daughter was confused by my lack of enthusiasm, and quietly sank back as though she had done something wrong. I was confused, wondering why this independent child of mines was so excited to claim knowledge of something, not through her own efforts, but because her teacher told her so.
The disease of dependency and aimlessness
Most of us have forgotten the origins of education in America. In the beginning, education was a tool for imparting religious doctrines, and only available in English to the wealthy. The revolutionary idea of public education was first presented in the 1800’s by President Jefferson. Public school was born in the 19th century industrial revolution. This was the period in time when production changed from hand and home-made, to machine and factory production. The influx of immigrants meant a rapid increase to the American population, and major changes to the society’s structure.
Most present day public schools are still using the same model created during the industrial revolution, with the primary goal of producing workers, and not independent thinkers. According to educator and author John Taylor Gatto: ‘Schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders… Schools were designed to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population. Schools are intended to produce… human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.’ Instead of reading, writing and arithmetic; the three R’s of this public model appear to be: Recite, Retain and Reproduce.
Teaching our children to be independent learners
We are at the impetus of yet another educational revolution. Budget cuts and public school closures are rampant throughout the country. Many parents have decided to invest in alternative educational programs. Some of the options include private schools, charter schools, and independent study programs. Whatever option you choose, teaching independent learning skills will be the most beneficial skill any child can have.
Learning can be broken down into four simple steps:
1- Ask questions. All children are born with a natural curiosity. This is the beginning of the learning process. Asking questions is the pulse of the brain, the life force activity that let’s us know we are still alive. If children are taught to simply obey orders instead of asking their own questions, they are being stripped of their vitality, which will result in a weaker child, both academically and spiritually.
2- Think of an answer. The brain is the body’s CPU, and it comes preloaded with a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. We should be teaching our children to search their internal memory storage as a first step in answering their questions.
3- Get the information. How many times have you answered a question for a child, only to find that the answer you gave has escaped them within mere seconds after it was provided? Helping a child to find the information on their own will build independent learning skills that will last a lifetime.
4- Share what you know. This is a child’s first opportunity to share the rewarding experience of peer and community service. Experts have also confirmed that teaching any particular subject is the best way to learn about it.
Every child has something unique and valuable to share with the world. By teaching children to follow their individual passions, and take leadership of their educational pursuits, we will all share the benefits of a rich and vibrant future.
~ Ell Parker