Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Quick Blurb About Education

I have a few friends who are teachers, and I know and have spoken to several people with young children in the school system. All these people tell me how the emphasis on learning has switched from taking tests to doing these elaborate, hands-on projects. The idea is that we need to be getting children actively involved in the learning process at a young age, and the best way to do it is by giving them creative projects (dioramas, science fair projects, poster boards, etc.). Someone I recently spoke to told me that her son's science fair project takes up 80% of his last marking period grade!!

I think this idea is freaking stupid. I hated projects when I was a kid. I hated them with a passion. I would rather take 100 tests than make a stupid poster or do some other "creative" project. In fact, one time when given the option to either make a crossword puzzle using the words in the chapter of my spelling book or to answer every single question in the chapter, I chose to answer every question in the chapter. I was the only one in my class to do so.... Wouldn't you know, I was also the only person in the class to get a 100 on that spelling test (which included spelling, definitions, using in sentences, etc.).

Personally, I believe that you learn a lot less through projects than you do through old fashioned questions and tests. Chapter questions and well-written tests make sure the students are paying attention to all the details of the subject. When doing a project, you can choose to ignore certain aspects of a subject and, instead, only focus on the things you feel like.

Moreover, let's not kid ourselves.... Especially on the elementary school level, these kids aren't really the ones doing the projects. The parents are doing the projects for them. After all, while kids are plenty creative, they often have great difficulty organizing their thoughts to form something coherent. Therefore, if left on their own, they'd produce pretty poor creative projects. The parents end up being the ones that come up with the ideas, buy the materials, do all the cutting, all the pasting, 3/4 of the research, most of the writing, etc. All the kid has to do is stand up in front of the class and show the work his mommy or daddy did.

I know this was true for me. My mother did all my school projects until I hit high school. Every diorama, science fair project, poster board, and creative invention project, was done almost entirely by my mom. Luckily, we had to do far less projects in my elementary and middle school days than students have to do today. I'm pretty sure I learned a WHOLE lot more than today's students too.

My personal opinion is that elementary school and middle school should focus mostly on math and writing (with an emphasis on proper grammar and paragraph structure). History and science can be those fun little classes on the side, but most of the early learning should be in math and writing (and I'll throw in reading, which goes hand-in-hand with writing). These are the most important subjects because everything else is built upon them. Math is integral in statistics, chemistry, physics, and many other subjects. A good understanding is the only means to mastering these subjects. Reading and writing is quite simply involved in every subject. You can't learn a subject unless you can read well about it, and you can't properly explain a subject without being able to effectively write about it.

That was just my random thought for the day... And by the way... I realize that there are a few grammatical and spelling mistakes in my blog entries. Understand that I'm not paying particularly close attention to grammar and spelling in my blog. I'm just getting ideas out there. If I were to write a formal paper, my grammar would be much much better.

6 comments:

susan said...

In some ways the hands on projects are better than rote memorization. After all, how much are you learning if your just blindly memorizing random crap. But yeah, the whole "it fosters creativity" is BS....Still the education system in America is in need of a huge overhaul...
I think one of the main issues is teachers need to make stuff relevant to kid's lives. They need to find a way to make students see that what is learned in the classroom really does matter to their life. In every single math class I ever took in middle school and high school, I would hear all the time, "I'm never going to need to know this in life...this is useless"...so teachers need to connect the material to real life.

Pharmacy Mike said...

Teachers should be preaching understanding the material instead of memorizing it.

That's the great thing about math. You have to understand it. You can't do it if you don't understand how.

And the thought "I'll never need to know this stuff outside of school" is stupid. If you want to look at it that way, you'll never need to use 90% of the stuff you learned in school. Is anyone ever going to quiz you on history or science when you're an adult. No... It's just good to know so that you can be a well-rounded person.

susan said...

That's a good point..but I still contend that what we learn should have some relevence to daily life...even just to make it more interesting.

Pharmacy Mike said...

I agree...

I just think that making a science project worth 80% of a marking period grade for a 5th grader is pretty ridiculous.

I think the emphasis on projects is getting a little out of hand. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned homework questions and tests?

Blondefabulous said...

Reading, writing, and arithmatic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick!
They don't paddle in most schools anymore either, and look at the discipline problems they have.
Ahhhhh, the good old days.

Corrinne said...

I can't agree more with you, although I don't know jack about how kids really learn (even though I am taking child psychology at this very moment. ha). Not only did I dislike projects, I do VERY well with tests. I am just lucky. I can barely pay attention, skim my reading, and ace the test. I test well. Most of my friends in school did not.

Oh well, I don't have to do it so I shouldn't care. What I hate about my college though is that most of it is papers. I am actually great at writing papers but when I am feeling lazy a test just seems so much easier...

It seems the school system lacks a lot of discipline in recent years. I'll have to ask my cousin. She teaches 2nd or 3rd grade I'm pretty sure...