Here’s an interesting letter from today’s Globe:
SCOT LEHIGH’S May 14 op-ed “We need it, but who’ll pay for a longer school day?’’ made me wonder: What was his reaction when he was in fifth grade and the bell rang at the end of the day? Was it, “Gee, I wish I could stay here another two hours?’’ Probably he was like most of us. We couldn’t wait for the doors to open.
Many adults tend to romanticize their school days, confusing schooling with learning. Social philosopher Ivan Illich attributed this phenomenon to what he called the “hidden curriculum of schooling.’’ More than any subject matter, more than the content of what is taught, schools teach above all else the necessity of schools. They instill the belief that only in school does real learning take place.
This causes many to have an inflated sense of the benefit and effectiveness of schooling. They think that more school means more learning. The opposite, however, is true. At a certain point, prolonged schooling becomes counterproductive, actually hindering and stifling initiative, creativity, curiosity, and the joy of learning.
How many students today read a book that’s not on a required list? We need less school, not more.
The Lion thinks the writer has it a bit backwards. We need more schooling, but it should be schooling that creates and rewards initiative, creativity, curiosity, and the sheer joy of learning. Education should be messy and sloppy and brimming with the noise of young brains plunging into all kinds of stuff.
That sort of educative atmosphere is not possible when education is focused on passing massive tests like the Massachusetts MCAS. Talk about stifling initiative, creativity, and so on. It’s hard to think of a better way to create dumber students who have absolutely no interest in learning than to subject them to a test-oriented educational regime, a one size fits all mindscrew reminiscent of the Iron Maiden of medieval torture chambers.
We should be promoting schooling that kids eagerly want to go to in the morning and don’t want to leave in the afternoon. Instead we do the opposite, and not for any significant educational reason, but just to make life easier for the bean counters in the various bureaucracies, bean counters who don’t care for the messy matter that results from recognizing that children are exciting and excitable individuals, not statistics to be squeezed like toothpaste into tests and forms that produce nice clean numbers for the learning disabled education bureaucracies in the states and in Washington.
Full disclosure: The Lion is sixty-five years old (sixty five and a half actually) and for the past few years has been struggling to learn classical Greek, formal and informal logic, philosophy, some Latin and Italian, math and geometry and physics, and keep up with politics and social mores and this, that and the other. It’s a struggle, and The Lion is doing it alone, not to pass a test, not to get a reward or a job, but just because the struggle is interesting and fun, because learning is a marvelous thing in itself. The Lion would be the last to claim that he is any good at any of these endeavors, or even particularly successful, but he will claim that heaving his old brain at them has been worth the travail and the frustration. It’s fun. There’s really no other way to describe it (other than challenging and often frustrating to a no-longer-young-and-quick brain). But The Lion seriously doubts he would feel this way if he had spent his entire early education being pounded into an MCAS hole to satisfy a bureaucracy’s need to turn his education into a number that fits neatly into its spreadsheets.
So by all means, let’s have more schooling, let’s have messier schooling, indeed, let’s have smarter schooling.