Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Forced Education is Not Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Image from here

An interesting debate has been sparked in the comments section of my post "Not Grading is Awful" on the Cooperative Catalyst, with some people stating that forced school is inhumane.  I have been pondering this for a bit and I must say I disagree; having an educational system that is mandatory is not inhumane, not having one would be.  And neither is forcing courses on students, it all comes down how those courses are taught, which incidentally is something we do have a bit of control over.

Now I know that we are tied to standards and district regulations, the politicians are breathing down our neck to raise test scores and there are, indeed, major flaws within our educational system, and yet...There are many things we can change within the public school setting.  I did.  But back to the original point that forced courses or mandatory education is cruel and unusual punishment and that students should have a free reign instead over what they study and how.  I disagree.  I think students should be expected to take certain classes simply because education is what rounds us out at human beings.  Particularly in the primary grades.  I loved climbing trees as a child and could have spent most of my days outside roaming around with my knife, and yes because of school I couldn't pursue that all day, however, that childhood passion would certainly not have led me down the path of teaching.  Instead going through school and having a foundation to do further studies on led me to where I am.  Children may have the curiosity to explore, and that should never be stifled, however, we must support that curiosity with basic common knowledge and a well-rounded worldview.

So some may argue that there is no point in knowing historical facts that do not directly relate to whatever we end up pursuing as a career.  Some may argue that much of math is arbitrary for most people who simply do not end up using it.  Some even say that grammar and how to write an essay is superfluous knowledge that does us no good.  I disagree.  I think all of these lead us to where we end up.  I think knowledge as a whole is needed to be a citizen, to be a knowledgeable member of society, to be respected and accepted.  So I may not remember all of the days of grammar drilling, or spelling lines, or even math facts, but I see the result of them; me teaching it to my students but trying to make it more interesting.

I think we sometimes mistake the whole notion of education for all as flawed, where instead we should be focusing in on the parts that are.  Drill and kill, sometimes that is a necessary component.  Teacher talking, yep that too.  However, how we teach becomes just as important as what we teach.   And that is something we all have control over in this endless debate of education policy.

7 comments:

@educatoral said...

I just happen to agree with you. I think those of us fighting to maintain a free, public education are also trying to reform it so that it's valuable for all kids. Or at least as many as possible. No one thing is perfect for everybody but everybody needs something and a good, free, public education benefits lots of kids. I also question how developmental appropriate it is to let young children do whatever they want. Not all children, not all people, all driven.

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