Monday, February 23, 2009

Forcing kids to learn

~From Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely, pages 85-86:

So how can we improve the educational system? We should probably first rethink school curricula, and link them in more obvious ways to social goals (elimination of poverty and crime, elevation of human rights, etc.), technological goals (boosting energy conservation, space exploration, nanotechnology, etc.), and medical goals (cures for cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc.) that we care about as a society. This way the students, teachers, and parents might see the larger point in education and become more enthusiastic and motivated about it. We should also work hard on making education a goal in itself, and stop confusing the number of hours students spend in school with the quality of the education they get. Kids can get excited about many things (baseball, for example), and it is our challenge as a society to make them want to know as much about Nobel laureates as they now know about baseball players. I am not suggesting that igniting social passion for education is simple; but if we succeed in doing so, the value could be immense.

While I'm not sure "making education a goal in itself" makes much sense, I do overall agree with this statement. I think this sort of goes with the quote I posted right below this one, about how when we're forced to do things they don't seem quite as nice. So much of school seems like "forcing kids to learn" and as a result they don't like it. I think a lot of parents and teachers don't even question it; they had to go to school, so it must be a good thing. But I believe there are quite a few ways that can make a child be more interested in his or her own education, such as giving them more control over what they're learning, getting rid of so much strict testing, and getting rid of the strict-grading system which obscures the real reasons behind learning. It's like when a child asks his parents "why do I have to do such-and-such?" and the parent says "because I said so!" That is a DUMB nonsense reason, and any parent who says that is a BAD parent, for that moment at least. Have a REAL reason and be honest; let's not be stupid!

On a side note, I think the "moodiness" of teenagers is caused almost entirely by being forced to do things all the time that don't matter them: go to school, do your homework, do your chores, go to bed. If parents and teachers lived in the same restrictive environment teenagers do and were forced to go to school, do homework, etc., they'd be just as moody! It has nothing to do with hormones and changing brains and all that crap. But I think teenagers grow up, become adults, and forget the real reasons they were miserable, continuing the cycle. :-(



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