Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Best At The Extremes

by AJ

I find it interesting that within the traditional educational systems, the best seems to be at the extremes. That is, the best education occurs in kindergarten and in doctoral programs.

Kindergarten is probably best of all. In kindergarten, most teachers know that learning and play are much the same thing. They are not artificially separated (hopefully). Much of learning focuses on projects... kids learn English as a foreign language, for example, by singing songs, playing games, telling stories, reading stories, making things & following directions, watching entertaining shows, etc.

Then they hit 1st grade and the evil begins. Fun declines, "work" increases. Learning and fun are separated... with each year after first grade widening the gap between the two. By High School, most sane kids hate school (I certainly did). True to form, parents and teachers and bureaucrats blame the kids ("high school kids just dont care about learning").

From 1st grade through university students are beat down and lobotomized. They "learn" by rote memorization. They "learn" by repeating (often erroneous) "facts" in textbooks. They "learn" by listening to boring teachers give boring lectures about topics with little relevance to their lives. They "learn" by competing for grades. They "learn" by doing what they are told.

Finally, a few make it to the graduate/Phd. level. The unlucky ones get stuck with a tyrranical major professor and suffer more of the same... obedience, humiliation, boredom.

But a few finally are encouraged to think. They find a great major professor who acts as a mentor. They are encouraged to pursue their own interests and curiousity. They take a few required classes, but the bulk of their effort goes towards a mega-project (the disseratation). The lucky ones (or defiant ones) direct their own learning and finally, at long last, rediscover some of their passion for learning. These rare few go on to be inspiring uber-geeks like Stephen Krashen and the like.

So, we do have a few models of excellence to draw from- even in the traditional system. They may be rare, but they do exist.

What we need then is a new system that combines the playfulness, projects, and fun of kindergarten with the autonomy, maturity, and research-exploration of graduate school. In other words: Kindergarten for adults.