education involves teaching kids a curriculum set to meet state standards. "education" is typically teacher (and test) driven and its relevance is often missed by the students. "education" involves teaching facts from a textbook and worksheets with scattered tests and projects, and studying for state/national mandated tests upon which funding is determined. For example, as a school consultant a few years ago (in a city school I choose not to disclose), I noticed the students there were given sample state tests in math and reading every few weeks. Those students were getting an 'education' because there was no time to 'play' with the material - no time to integrate aspects of the curriculum into their lives to make it meaningful or for it to come alive. No time to depart the text or to take learning tangents along lines students were interested in. There was only time to cover what was on the test and practice test taking skills.
Education involves teaching kids a given broad "liberal arts" curriculum with the expectation that they critically evaluate and incorporate that curriculum - evaluating how meaningful it is to themselves and others, and expanding upon that core curriculum. Education involves a wide breadth of issues and sources (textbooks, original sources and texts, computer/internet sources, graphic novels and classics) that are student driven and teacher facilitated. Classrooms are interactive, and involve critical thinking, critical reading, and creativity. While state and national tests are a given 'reality' - they don't dictate the curriculum, classes or content. For example, when my son was in sixth grade, the teacher told them that the book they were reading was based on Milton's Paradise Lost. My son was so taken by the book, he read Paradise Lost and the teacher asked him to make a class presentation about it. My son was receiving an Education.
The difference is in our EXPECTATIONS - Expectations in what our kids can learn and accomplish; expectations in what should be taught.
Expectations of what our kids can learn and accomplish: While these vary from child to child, one thing remains constant: Set the bar low, achievements will be low; set the bar high and students will rise to those goals. The key: making learning engaging and taking cues from your students to facilitate learning and meeting challenges and expectations.
- IF they have NO trouble with the reading materials - increase the bar a bit. Give them more to read; give them more to discuss; add depth and more analysis to the discussions; have them integrate more sources - using more extensive resources.
- IF they find the material challenging - first, evaluate what is the challenge and adjust accordingly.
- IF the reading material poses too great a challenge, switch it around a bit. You may want to have them read fewer sources but notch up their critical analyses. You may want to keep the reading material but provide resources to help them (for example: summarize what they will be reading BEFORE they read it; have appropriate graphic novels to complement the textbooks)
- IF the reading material is fine, but the lesson demands are too challenging - switch them around. IF there is too much writing, make sure that they write a certain amount but supplement the writing with other activities (creating a video, an interview, a diorama).
- IF the class discussions are too challenging - ask the teacher to provide one or two discussion questions is advance that your student can prepare for (and be one of the first called on when the question is posed in class). You may also want to record certain classes and review them together later.
Expectations of what should be taught: 21st Century Educational Leadership has some of the right answers. They advocate for interactive, student driven education (that is meaningful and lessons that they can immediately relate to) with lessons that incorporate verbal, visual and technological literacies.
"Twenty-first century skills combining technology literacy, critical thinking, creativity and mastery of core subject matter are the lifeblood of a productive workforce in today's global, knowledge-based economy." - 21st Century Educational LeadershipThis, however, is only part of the solution. Student driven education is essential - learning must be meaningful and relevant to students and they must play and interact with it. However, there is something to be said about being well read... Being able to go into any social situation and join others' conversations - regardless of the topic. Knowing classics in literature, philosophy, economics are as important as history, science and math. Classic literature and philosophy represent where our ideas and ideals originated and are important in helping to determine and chart where we must go. I firmly believe in integrating comics, computers, and classics.
What do you think? What type of education did you receive? What type of education is your child receiving? How can we get our teachers to Educate (let me know if you want to continue this discussion)?