Is the purpose of school really low-level content and procedures?

MisfitIn The Genius Myth, Michael Meade said:

If each person has natural gifts and innate talents, then the true nature of education must involve the awakening, inviting, and blessing of the inner genius and unique life spirit of each young person. [Kindle location 371]

In You, Your Child, and School, Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica said:

We all create our own lives. Helping your children develop what is inside them is the best guarantee of them creating a rewarding life in the world around them. (p. 41)

In World Class Learners, Yong Zhao said:

[T]he traditional paradigm, by forcing children to master the same curriculum, essentially discriminates against talents that are not consistent with the prescribed knowledge and skills. Students who are otherwise talented but do not do well in the prescribed subjects are often sent to spend more time on the core subjects, retained for another grade, or deprived of the opportunity to develop their talents in other ways. (p. 45)

In The Game of School, Robert Fried said:

We have opted not to create schools as places where children’s curiosity, sensory awareness, power, and communication can flourish, but rather to erect temples of knowledge where we sit them down, tell them a lot of stuff we think is important, try to control their restless curiosity, and test them to see how well they’ve listened to us. (p. 59)

Our actions exemplify our beliefs. We can change our ‘forced homogeneity’ models of schooling. Or we can just keep pretending that children are interchangeable life products into which we should shove low-level standardized content and procedures from age 5 through 18. And keep penalizing them when their diversity doesn’t fit our one-size-fits-all model (because, you know, it’s them, not us). And keep paying the price as a society for our incredible waste of human talent.

Which will your school choose?

Image credit: Misfit, Josh

4 Responses to “Is the purpose of school really low-level content and procedures?”

  1. Ah, but who tends to go into education, if not those who are good at playing the game of school? What you’re describing is not just at the elementary or secondary level… look at the requirements for graduate degree programs.
    But it’s not all a bad thing. The acquisition of tools and knowledge of thousands of years of civilization is not something to be set aside lightly, and there are far more problems that we encounter in daily life that have established solutions, standards, or conventions than those that require unique or creative solutions. A carpenter should not have to re-create Euclidean Geometry, nor a Pharmacist chemistry from Dalton on. Low level does not mean unnecessary, I believe that the issue is the method of instruction, not the content being taught.

    • I agree that ‘low level’ does not mean unnecessary! But neither should it mean ‘all that we seem to do in class.’ We can (and should) do more for our children…

  2. That’s why I said that it’s the “How” that is the problem, not the “What.” You can have lessons that accomplish a low level skill but make it an interesting lesson that allows students to express creativity, problem solving, or creating products that are meaningful to them. The biggest problem in teaching today is that those types of lessons don’t fit well with the “How will this help our test scores?” mentality.

    • Hey Bill, I would agree that a person can have lessons that accomplish a low level skill but make it an interesting lesson that allows students to express creativity, problem solving, or creating products that are meaningful to them. I think that is the point of taking content and skills and having students do what you just suggested. The problem is that it doesn’t happen often enough.

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