Saturday, March 07, 2015

mistaken views of science and of reading...

National Geographic this month offers an article hoping to shed light on the anti-science bias of the American people. It addressed the lack of science literacy as apparently reasonable people adhere to outrageous beliefs. Some folks deny various things that have been well documented in history. Other folks deny global warming even though there is a large body of evidence and scientific consensus on the issue.

I lay much of this errancy at the feet of American education. How do students become proficient at interpreting real things when they've done diddly squat? Engagement in the arts and crafts and woodworking, in conjunction with hands-on engagement in scientific experimentation allows the child to enter the community of scientific and experiential method rather than being a casual bystander to science. Lecturing a child in science robs the child of heuristic engagement in it.

Yesterday we had a reading specialist at school to explain her method. I sat there imagining what my own response would have been as a child sitting in a chair looking at flash cards and making vowel sounds. Even as an adult, I was squirming and looking for a way to exit the room.

There are those who need the help of specialists in reading. Understanding the vowel sounds and the various consonants is important and can help in sounding out words. In some cases experts are necessary because children are forced to read too soon. Reading that is forced before the child is developmentally ready is difficult and distasteful for the child.  I sat as patiently as I could and then asked the specialist about reading readiness and noted that in Finland, children learn to read in 30 percent less time, because of their delayed implementation of reading instruction. She was not aware of Finland having so far surpassed American readers. When you invest your intensity in one particular direction, you may awaken to realize you've missed a few important things.

Pushing kids to read too soon should be considered a form of abuse. It can rob them of the sense of discovery that builds joy in reading. There are those who simply read spontaneously. They may need a bit of help sounding out words. But just because some read more spontaneously at an earlier age than others does not mean that we should inflict reading upon the masses before their brains are developmentally prepared. And again, doing real things comes into play. Doing things builds the vocabulary. For instance, in the wood shop we use a variety of tools that build conceptual frameworks, that are also associated with words and their meanings. Straight lines, and right angles come to mind.

Both education in science and in reading are made more meaningful, effective and complete when based on discovery rather than on instruction. Instruction can be effective on one hand, when the child is truly engaged in the instruction. On the other hand, it can be a form of theft, taking away the heuristic engagement that builds lifelong learning.

In this, I am not aiming criticism on those who attempt to teach reading and science in the severe circumstances one encounters in too many American schools. Instead, I am calling for a revolution in understanding, and a restoration of the principles laid out in earlier times.

Make, fix and create...

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