Education v’s Learning

A delightful hello to you and I hope that your day has been beautiful. My blog today is another one of those examples I did for my students whilst I was teaching high school. Jack Andraka is one very motivated person, and as he was in the same age bracket as my students I thought he would inspire them, but more importantly, make them question the system they lived in. When I came across it today I remember just how impressed I was by him, so I thought I would share his story, as well as the questions that I really need to be asking myself now whilst I am trying to find my place in the world again.

The reason he is noteworthy is that he has developed a paper sensor that could detect cancer in five minutes for a cost of as little as 3 cents. Jack did his research at John Hopkins University. Mr Andraka’s research could transform the face of cancer and encourage early detection. Jack’s method is 168 times faster, 26000 times cheaper, 400 times more sensitive and has a 90% success rate. Jack was selected as the Intel 2012 ISEF winner adding to the awards won at multiple national and international math competitions. Jack, a member of the national junior white-water kayaking team, enjoys playing with his dog and folding origami.  I bet you are just as impressed with Jack’s achievements as I am but here is the bit of information that left me gob-smacked – Jack is a fifteen-year-old freshman in high school. 

This got me to thinking, just how does a young person with this level of creativity; (1. Having the ability or power to create: 2. Productive; creating. 3. Characterised by originality and expressiveness; imaginative: 4. creative writing or one who displays productive originality) get through the education system we have in place today.

TORRENCE TEST of CREATIVE THINKING from a survey showed that;

  • A child at four – 84% tested as highly creative.
  • A child at eight – 67% tested as highly creative.
  • A child at twelve – 34% tested as highly creative.
  • A child at seventeen– 12% tested as highly creative.

I find this atrocious. Education is meant to enhance a person’s life. There is no purpose in giving a child an education if we do not also teach them how to live their life. We need to teach our young how to think; to reason; to deconstruct; to question and how to transfer these skills to all aspects of their lives. We need to teach our children that failing is a natural part of living and being human and that it is these failings that teach us how to succeed. We need to teach our children that “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  In this instance, I have pinched the words of Albert Einstein for he said it so much better than I ever could have. We can achieve this by implanting a sense of self-worth and confidence in their own natural abilities thus allowing our young to adapt to each and every new situation they encounter. Alvin Toffler saw that the illiterate of the 21st century would not be those who could not read or write but rather those who can not learn, unlearn, and relearn. The world is changing so quickly that the skills required for today’s business world will not be the ones needed in five years’ time. Our youth need to be flexible, adaptable and ready to give it a go.

So let us look at what our children encounter when they commence their formal education.  Much of their day is spent indoors in a very controlled environment. The day is organised by bells. They are trained to start at a certain time, ending the day via the last bell. There is no flexibility, autonomy and uniqueness allowed. I may be a little on the cynical side but is this what they want? Is this what they need? Or is this the blueprint for the rest of their existences. That 8 to 5 routine that we complain about so much! 

Now, let us review what the education system is successfully imprinting into the minds of our young:

  • Truth comes from the recognised and approved Authority
  • Intelligence is the ability to remember and repeat but never analyse
  • Accurate memory and repetition are rewarded
  • Non-compliance and questioning are punishable
  • Conformity is mandatory both intellectually and socially

So in straightforward English, this means that our kids are not being educated but rather indoctrinated.  They are being tested to reinforce levels of obedience. School is about memorising what you are told short-term and repeating it, without the need to retain or evaluate. Assessment is completed under impractical and well-ordered conditions. Obedience is above all else, the prized behaviour. When you have an obedient compliant person they can be manipulated into follow any directive. John Henrik Clarke stated the “Powerful people cannot afford to educate the people that they oppress, because once you are truly educated, you will not ask for power. You will take it”.

Please remember that the views here are compiled by me from personal observations, talking to others and reading about the various education systems globally. I also gained 18 odd years first-hand experience of this system as a parent, 10 years teaching students in a classroom. This is why I question the validity of ‘formal organised education’. There are numerous sites on the internet that have all the information you need to decide for yourself. Parents, you just need to talk to your children and pay the odd unannounced visit to your child’s room. Educational institutions should operate an open door policy and if they do not – ask why not? It is your future and your children’s future that governments and politicians are messing with. It is our children that will pay the eventual price for our compliance and procrastination. In closing I will leave you this quote to ponder:

“The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all;

 it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, 

to breed a standard citizenry, 

to put down dissent and originality.”

(H.L. Mencken)



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