It has been over a week since Nelson Mandela’s passing, and the world continues to mourn and pay tribute to the man who fought to end apartheid...
Why do our children learn so much and yet know so little? – Part One
College is basically a bunch of rooms where you sit for roughly two thousand hours and try to memorize things… Basically, you learn two kinds of things in college:
Things you will need to know in later life (two hours). These include how to make collect telephone calls and get beer and crepe-paper stains out of your pajamas.
Things you will not need to know in later life (1,998 hours). These are the things you learn in classes whose names end in -ology, – - -osophy, -istry, -ics, and so on. The idea is, you memorize these things, then write them down in little exam books, then forget them…
After you’ve been in college for a year or so, you’re supposed to choose a major, which is the subject you intend to memorize and forget the most things about.
While Barry may be somewhat diminishing the value of a college education, he has hit upon an important issue that effects schooling at almost every level. Put simply we may ask: Why do our children learn so much and yet know so little?
All humor aside, there is a significant concern here. What is really being described above is the fact that our children seem to spend an enormous amount of time in the classroom but leave with little knowledge to show for their efforts. We have talented teachers who dedicate their lives to their students and yet students forget almost all they learn, with only hazy recollection of the things they do manage to remember. Why does this happen, and what can we do about it?
As is the case with almost every issue, the problem is complex with no one solution. Obviously cramming information, uninspired teaching or lack of creativity will yield the above results. However, I believe the problem is deeper. I have seen many excellent teachers whose students still will finish their day and when asked, “What did you learn today?” will still answer, “Nothing”. Why does this happen?
Teachers play many roles. One of those roles is a disseminator of information. What is frequently overlooked is that teachers must also act as distillers of that very same information. Students are taught a dizzying array of facts and provided with a deep and wide exposure to the collected knowledge of the ages. But, does anyone filter all of the above for the students with all the student learning that they are doing? Too frequently not. Students cannot remember it all; they therefore choose the other option, to forget it all.
But, how does one choose? What criteria should a teacher use to make such decisions? And, how does the teacher communicate these expectations to students? I would argue that until educators can effectively answer the above questions, Mr. Barry’s humorous reflections will continue to be the rule rather than the exception.