Tuesday, January 5, 2016

I keep thinking about this sentence

I read an article a couple of weeks ago, a book review about a children's book depicting homeschooling.

So many schools now are steeped in a stressful, false urgency, treating learning like it needs to be jammed down children’s throats, as though they’re ducks at a foie gras farm. 

These words keep coming back to me.  Not the duck image, vivid as it is.  But the idea that schools are steeped in a stressful, false urgency.

I see this a lot.  I've felt it.  I have worried when my children were in early elementary school and couldn't read or daven like other first and second graders.  I've seen 5th - 8th graders panic about tests and grades while my daughter sat down to do about an hour and a half of book work a day.  I've seen that the math curriculum repeats in 5th, 6th, 7th grade, when kids could be playing more and instead they are worried that they will be "behind" if they don't do it.

It feels like there is never enough time in the school day to learn all the subjects.  In Yeshiva Day Schools there are 8+ hours a day plus homework, and there is an underlying feeling of panic that there isn't enough time, we have to finish the curriculum.  In Limudei Kodesh there is more leniency, but there is still that nervous tension that we have to hurry.

Contrast it with this article that explains how child-led learning progresses.

I am not saying this to criticize schools.  I work in a school.  Every time I have contact with teachers and administrators I am struck by their passion, their commitment, their creativity, their love for education and the incredible amounts of energy and time they devote to it.

But school is a very strange system when you think about it, where we make children sit and not move and barely talk for so many hours a day and they have to concentrate on subjects and areas that they are not interested in and don't want to know about and there is an implication of terrible urgency that it is vital to their lives and would be a great tragedy with long term consequences if they don't apply themselves.  And that is, largely, false.

In this atmosphere home schooling, which once seemed like the province of a kooky fringe, looks like a potentially sane, enlightened alternative

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