Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Education Thing

There's always a lot of arguing and hand-wringing on the subject of education in this country.  Are American kids dumber than kids in other countries?  Do we spend too much on education?  Or not enough?  Should we test kids more or less?  Pay teachers more or less?  And so on.

We know kids have innate learning abilities.  Eight year olds can memorize the names of 500 Pokemon, along with their powers and weaknesses, evolution, etc.  Yet they don't know the names and dates of a few dozen presidents.  They can master all the Latin spells from the two thousand pages of Harry Potter books, but not the differences among "there", "they're" and "their" (and, in some cases, "Thayer")  They can gather reams of data about human reproduction, and yet learn nothing of biology.

So how do we get kids to learn?  Simple.  Forbid it!

That's right. Make the school day all recess, and you'll find kids sneaking books onto the playground.  Lock up all the textbooks, and smugglers and dealers will emerge.  Use parental filters to block public television, and kids will crack the code.  Run news stories about how multiplication leads to the harder stuff, and everyone will want to experiment (and inhale!)

This is undoubtedly the thinking behind such moves as the Kansas Board of Education's attempts to block the teaching of evolution.  Clearly Kansas was trying to encourage students to study evolution on their own, perhaps through extra-curricular experiments.

This is also the motivation for banning books.  What could increase a book's appeal more than making it taboo?  A quick glance at a list of banned books shows that they're almost all classics!

And what about the straight-arrows who always follow all the rules?  It may sound harsh, but there are some people you just can't reach.

No comments: