Tuesday, September 22, 2009

spending enough time in school?

There is discussion in America that kids aren't spending enough time in school. We let them out for the summers and recess and holidays. The kids work short days in comparison to adults. And surely, the reasoning goes, in order to be competitive in the global marketplace where working bodies connected by internet compete for paychecks with hundreds of millions of other highly trained professionals on other continents, we need to have our children educated to the maximum that their time in schools allow.

But does more time in boring school fill the bill? As a child, I would have found it even more excruciating. According to Commenius (1592-1670)
Boys ever delight in being occupied in something for the youthful blood does not allow them to be at rest. Now as this is very useful, it ought not to be restrained, but provision made that they may always have something to do. Let them be like ants, continually occupied in doing something, carrying, drawing, construction ad transporting, provided always that whatever they do be done prudently. They ought to be assisted by showing them the forms of all things, even of playthings; for they cannot yet be occupied in real work, and we should play with them.
That may sound more like recess than classroom activity. It bothers me that in these times the words of the "father of pedagogy" would be so thoroughly ignored. It makes me wonder whether even teachers learn anything in their schooling.

I have been asked by an organization in Michigan working on educational reform to present a "webinar." It will be my first and be presented on December 14. I have a lot to prepare and my readers will be invited. As it was explained to me, Michigan schools are at a point of crisis. Poor management and corruption in the years leading up to our current recession have left some schools in desperate condition. But crisis and opportunity can be the same thing in the right hands. Can students be taught more in less time, more fully engaged in classroom activities? The engagement of the hands is the key. Jean Jacques Rousseau (another near forgotten early educational theorist) in his book about ideal education, wrote that Emile "will learn more by one hour of manual labor, than he will retain from a whole day's verbal instructions." This is something you can test for yourself. Pick up a tool and see what you can do with it.

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