9/8- Plutarch quote

Plutarch once said “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled”.  I think this quote is very important to education. The point of education is not to fill a mind with a never-ending stream of facts that students cram into their brain for  a test and then forget a week later. The point of education is to foster a love of learning that will last until the day a person dies. I think most teachers have this love not because of education, but in spite of it. From eight in the morning until three in the afternoon students are shuffled from room to room, given an endless stream of information, and are then told that in four days there will be a test on this information. You study like the wind, pass your tests, and then forget everything that you supposedly just “learned” to make space for the information that will be on the next test. So much emphasis is placed on exams, grades, and standardized tests, that the true reason for education has been lost. A love for learning is natural- how else could you explain how an infant learns to crawl, walk, talk, etc.? There is an inevitable stage that begins around the age of two known as the “Why?” stage, and, though thrilled that children want to know things, is the eventual dread of parents, babysitters, and teachers of young children everywhere! The questions never stop, they want to know why the sky is blue, why the grass is green, why the sun is warm, why squirrels live in trees, why there is a hole in the sidewalk, why, why,why! It never stops!

Or does it?

When does this stage of constant “why” taper off? This seems to draw to an end around the age of five or six. When does a child enter the formal education system? I don’t think this is a coincidence.

As soon as a child begins school they have so much information thrown at them that, frankly, they have no interest in yet. But that doesn’t seem to matter. Letter grades, meeting certain levels of preordained achievement for their age group, and scoring well on the government mandated tests that every child is subjected to year after year throughout grade school, seems more important to many teachers and school systems than whether or not their students are truly learning. I’m not saying this is everywhere, many teachers are concerned that their students aren’t learning the way they should, but many others are content to meet the required material for the school year, assuming that their students have learned what they are expected to. This rigorous course of study quickly saps all desire for learning out of a child because their brains are too tired at the end of the day to take in any more information. As they get older, they begin to stress about getting the perfect scores, sometimes making themselves almost physically sick about it, and yet they never consider whether or not they’ve really learned what it is they are trying so hard to get an A on. I’ve fallen into that category more than once, and I rue the fact that I remember almost nothing from all those classes I studied so hard for. The only teacher I remember who taught me to love learning was my first grade teacher, who taught me to read. Through reading I learned to love learning. We need to teach our students that learning isn’t something you do nine months out of the year, five days a  week, seven hours a day, and then you stop once you graduate. It’s something you do until you take your final breath. We need to make that stage of the never-ending why last in our children all through their education and then they will naturally carry it into their adult lives. By never ceasing to ask why, our children will remember what is to love learning, to want to understand every single minute thing about the world surrounding us and what it contains. If we can do this, if we can keep our students asking “why”, then I believe we will have succeeded as educators. The children themselves lit the flame, and by never stopping the “why”s, we will have kindled the fire.  


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. pk
    Sep 11, 2014 @ 00:42:21

    Mckenna, Your blog was exquisite. You have a gift for written expression. I loved reading your blog because it was “spot on.” You have so much to contribute to our class, our discussions and our blogging adventure.



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