Are you worried about the apparent drive of the educational establishment which focuses on uniformity, testing, standardization, or as Tom Peter's so aptly puts it "schooling kids into submission"?
Yes , there are great schools, both public and privately funded, and even more inspired teachers, but unfortunately they fail to influence the system as a whole.
Children should be taught in an active way by doing things and playing games. It's very different than what is taught in schools, which involves sitting back and absorbing information- Edward de Bono, psychologist
Excitement and enthusiasm create purpose. Without enthusiasm a child lacks commitment and motivation. Schools celebrate order and raising hands over passionate outbursts. Teachers are encouraged to rely on curriculum and painstakingly formal outlines to teach under the "education is best" attitude of learning.
The paradox is that children learn easily when they want to. If it's interesting, fun, exciting and relevant children will develop a desperate need to know. If it's not exciting, no matter what the consequences, learning is hard.
"Formal education has become such a complicated, self conscious and over regulated activity that learning is widely regarded as something difficult that the brain would rather not do..." - Howard Gardner, The Unschooled Mind
As a parent, there is little you can do to rebel against the institutional limitation of formal education- unless you are willing to undertake homeschooling- but there are plenty of things you can do to breath life into learning.
In his book A Different Kind of Teacher, John Taylor Gatto suggest infusing your child's learning with passion, stimulation and extraordinary experience. Try one or all three of these approaches:
- Independent study. Go on an adventure of your child's choosing. Take a few hours, one day a week to chase a "big idea" with your child. Make it a field trip of discovery.
- Apprenticeship. Find out what your child is learning and what peaks their interest. Then find somebody somewhere they can shadow for a few hours, a few days or at regular intervals.
- Community service. Once a week or once a month, give your children a taste for life. Giving is receiving, even in education.
Making a child accountable for their learning is the best education you can give them says Dennis Littky of the Met School in Providence, Rhode Island. The Met school operates by two key principals: Education by Interest (EBI), and Learning through Internship (LTI).
Littky's approach is simple. Make your kids explain what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what they are learning from it. Accountability makes a child engaged, articulate, self assured and bound for success.
As parents, you may not be able to change the current widespread educational paradigm, but you can change your response to it!
Tom Peter's says it best:
Don't teach-to-test, teach to quest!
Don't devour facts, develop talent
Instead of multiple choice, think individual choice
Classroom vs studio
Rather than encourage obedience, encourage and applaud initiative
Don't get preoccupied with the "norm", aim for excellence.