What Should Children Learn in School?

By simply raising standards, it does not mean learning will improve inside classrooms. An obsession with goals and assessments does not guarantee quality education. Such exercise is usually myopic, boiling down to our own often misguided answers to the question "What should children learn in school?".

Our answers are often misguided because we fail to see that a fruitful relationship between a teacher and a student must be truly dynamic and responsive. Teaching begins first and foremost with getting to know the student. Learning also works with the student getting to know the teacher. In order to advance, learning inside the classroom must begin not with setting the goals, but with identifying the strengths and challenges of a student. Instead of asking what children should learn, the first question must be "What does a child need?"

It is truly an entirely different question. No one should be able to answer this question without knowing the child first.  As adults viewing education, it may help by trying to see the child inside each and everyone of us. Here are my thoughts:

  • We are social and we long for acceptance. We like to do well in sports and we transfer that enthusiasm to our children. A child who is clumsy or poor in motor skills faces a truly difficult time growing up. Fortunately, we do not do the same thing with children who are challenged in math. 
  • We buy lottery tickets but we do understand the odds. We see successful entrepreneurs who brought us Microsoft, Apple, Google and even Facebook. I hope we do realize the odds with that as well. The basketball or football coach in a university has a much higher salary than most professors do. We need to remember though that the university has only one basketball coach. The probability that a kindergarten classroom has one future university basketball coach is much lower than having one future university professor. We need to be realistic.
  • Life is certainly multidimensional. Life is broad. It is only natural that when we set our goals, we limit ourselves. It is ironic. As individuals, we can specialize, we can focus, but we certainly must allow for diversity if we are talking about a group of children. 
  • Those of us who have found passion in our work knows what engagement truly is. That engagement is no different from the energy we have as children playing our favorite games. It is that engagement that we must aspire for inside the classroom.
In order for learning in this century to become a true step in progress, we must finally acknowledge that each child inside a classroom is a unique body, heart and mind.

If We Only Regard Them as Our Very Own....

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