Thursday, April 13, 2006

Preparing For Life In The World

Bill and Melinda Gates were featured on the Oprah show this week, addressing the 'most serious problem' facing America. Images were shown of run down schools and indifferent students who dropped out of high school because of boredom, drug-abuse, and other reasons. The focus of the show was to show how serious the issue has become - that kids today just aren't interested in the process of education, or the work necessary for graduation.

Of course, that has impact in the decades ahead - we will have a work force incapable of shouldering the responsibility for sustaining progress. Many youth will find themselves stuck in minimum wage jobs for the better part of their lives, because they didn't finish school.

"For generations, Americans have worked to ensure that their children's lives will be better than their own. This core belief has remained strong even in a rapidly changing world, and a good education has long been considered the key to success. Yet while the kind of education young people must acquire to succeed today is drastically different, the nation’s schools have not changed in decades."

It is amazing, that the richest country in the world cannot convince most students of the value of a good education! Yet, if we go to developing countries, we see young girls in Afghanistan eager to learn. The Oprah show advocated 'better buildings and materials', yet, we don't see favorable conditions for academic environments in Iraq. There, buildings are bombed out, cement dwellings are the classrooms. Students sit on the floor and listen. In parts of Africa students bring their own chair.

Boredom is the real reason most kids stop the academic process. They don't see relevance, don't feel inspired. I wonder, if a two hour class-day would be the answer. Then, the remainder of the day would be devoted to life-experiences, hands on experience doing a variety of jobs. Learning through doing. That would wake kids up to the issues they will need to face 10 years down the road....a real wake-up call.

I also advocate doing homework as a group, collectively, where team interaction teaches the role of one's place, one's unique contributions. Getting the job done would be a group effort, resulting in relationships and interactive skill-building. I wouldn't be having a kid spend three hours every day working on homework alone at home. When school is over, life-enrichment classes would take over - team sports, hikes in the country, swimming, art and music. It would be a day of activity, rather than passive learning. Kids today just sit in a stupor, for most of the day - at school, then at home with video games and TV. No wonder they are bored.

Preparation for life in the world would also be an exploration of history and culture - travel would be a part of the academic learning format, with exchange students living and working abroad to get a better understanding of the differences in cultures and countries.

Graduating from high school would mean that several years of experience working for wages would be part of the completion of credits for graduation. In other words, much of what I advocate for students today is a complete overhaul in the curriculum and processes of learning. Learning one's place in the world, learning how to contribute in a positive way, and learning how to be productive are at the heart of a good education. We don't learn that just with listening and books....we need experiences to teach it, with hands-on learning with a curriculum that is not 50 years old. It is not that kids just need academia.

They need experiences, starting in grade school, that wake them up to their places in the world, surrounded by meaningful vital relationships that instill enthusiasm and self esteem.

And, lastly, we need parents who have high expectations, who help their children round every curve by paying attention to the process. When nothing is expected, nothing is gained.

1 comment:

leila said...

bonita, this is awesome and so interesting.

there's been a confluence of education-related stuff in my life recently: thinking about being a parent (a way off yet), meeting brilliant children who've been mostly homeschooled, being encouraged to look into curriculum development as further study/work when i grow up.

mmmm. it's SO interesting and important. and i was pretty bleh while at school, myself. i became very disillusioned with the "system" in general, and content and grading in particular, while i was at high school.

i think your comments are interesting and worthy of discussion. i can't formulate anything intelligent yet---meant to be working!---but i'm going to chew on this.

love from leila