Friday, December 10, 2010

Human capacity or Human captivity?

Have you noticed how often really young children love to learn?

Have you noticed how often teenagers hate school?

What happens to kids in between the age of 4 and 17?

These questions remind me of an excerpt from Sir Ken Robinson's book The Element:

There is a basic flaw in the way some policymakers have interpreted the idea of going "back to basics" to upgrade educational standards. They look at getting back to basics as a way of reinforcing the old Industrial Revolution-era hierarchy of subjects. They seem to believe that if they feed our children a nationally prescribed menu of reading, writing and arithmetic, we'll be more competitive with the world and more prepared for the future. 
What is catastrophically wrong with this mode of thinking is that it severely underestimates human capacity. We place tremendous significance on standardized tests, we cut funding for what we consider "nonessential" programs, and then we wonder why our children seem unimaginative and uninspired. In these ways, our current education system systematically drains the creativity out of our children.
What's ironic is that school might be less about developing and nourishing human capacity and more about human captivity.


  1. On some level, I agree. But the same is true of teenagers and how they view family, their nation or any other social institution. Adolescents are, on some level, naturally cynical. It's the age where they discover "the phonies." It's the coming of age of Holden Caulfield.

  2. John is right, adolescence is a period to be critical, though it is easy to forget that they are also being reflective. The period is transformative and produces wonderful people (like me!). However I think Sir Ken Robinson's point is still valid. Public Education needs to stay true to its liberal arts traditions if its goal is creative problem solvers or life long learners.

  3. What I have noticed is also that even though teenagers often hate school, they just as often love to learn as much as your average 7 year old. Just not the same things in the same way as when they were younger.

  4. Given that children by law have to receive an education, then, in my opinion, it makes schools the equivalent of an open prison.

    Last year I blogged about schools and the amount and quality of space allocated. Basically, primates in zoos have a better deal than children and staff working in schools. If we were primates, then education authorities would be imprisoned on the grounds of cruelty.

  5. My son started disliking school around 3rd grade. Hate really set in during 6th grade. Don't blame it on teenaged cynicism, entirely!


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