Time after time I have tried to figure out what education is really all about. Is it learning about things we never knew, like in biology and geometry and diagramming a sentence? Or it is about learning work ethic, figuring out how to find answers and acquiring a love for life long learning?
No doubt 100 people would give me 100 different answers.
And if you ask me to talk about what I learned from geometry or diagramming sentences or biology, I would be hard-pressed to recall even one thing a teacher tried to get into my head. However, I do think that when you mix all of this together the human brain has some way of sorting it all out, taking bits and pieces from here and there and assembling it into something that better prepares us to deal with our future world.
In other words, do we really need to sweat the small stuff? Do we get way too bogged down in the minutia of words and punctuation and symbols and how well we memorize and regurgitate? And do we put far too much emphasis on how well our children can prove their mastery of something and can verify this on a test so that grownups can then pat ourselves on the back and boast about how good our child’s school is doing?
Children are not just miniature adults. I don’t believe they should be judged like grownups as to how many cars they sell each month, how many bricks can they lay in one day, how many reports can they churn out, etc.?
Have we replaced a time of laughing and running and reading a book with big letters and lots of pictures with stress induced by grownups for the mere sake of satisfying some blood thirsty desire to scream “we’re number one?”
This is why I found this article about David Aderhold, the superintendent of a New Jersey school system, fascinating. Last fall he sent a 16-page letter to parents saying students are overburdened and stressed out, juggling too much work and too many demands. He pointed out that in the 2014-15 school year, 120 middle and high school students from the system were recommended for mental health assessment and 40 were hospitalized.
Aderhold urged parents to advocate a whole-child approach to schooling that respects “social-emotional development” and “deep and meaningful learning” over academics alone. Response to his letter broke along cultural lines. About 65 percent of students in this district are Asian-American. While most white parents tended to agree with the superintendent, many Asian-Americans did not.
But the discussion that Adehold’s letter created is one that is too important to ignore.