Everyone has a quest for knowledge.
This may sound like a false premise because people have different interests. Everyone seeks knowledge about something, but not everyone seeks the same something!
When I am curious about a particular subject, I will find a book on that subject and devour it. I don’t want to spend a semester sitting in a classroom. I want to learn it now. As long as I am interested, I will learn – quickly and thoroughly. If I have no interest in a particular subject, no amount of books or lectures or courses will help me master that subject. I will remain both disinterested and ignorant on that topic.
I am not unique in this. Everyone finds learning easy when studying a subject of personal interest, but struggles to master subjects for which they have little interest.
The primary problem with education today is our insistence that everyone must learn essentially the same things in order to be considered educated.
This was not always the case. Many years ago, before Public Education set out to educate everyone equally, individuals sought knowledge in specialized fields. The student, burning with a desire to expand his knowledge of a particular subject, sought guidance from a Master in that field by becoming an Apprentice. Masters would only take the time to teach students who possessed both interest and potential.
The student learned well because he was interested and because the teacher was proficient in that subject.
Today, everyone passing through a couple of years of preschool and kindergarten plus twelve long years of grade school must – whether they are interested or not – learn essentially the same subjects, which have become more diverse than they once were. And, since there are not nearly enough Masters to go around, they will be taught by people who specialized not in the actual subjects being taught, but rather in “Education”.
And so, as human nature would have it, each student will learn the subjects that interest him (as much as time permits) while barely scraping by with a passing grade in those subjects that hold no personal interest.
Not until students reach the college level are they allowed to specialize in their search for knowledge, and even then we require them to pass courses that are completely unrelated to their major in order to be “well-rounded”.
Then we proudly declare them “educated”, even though 70% of college graduates are functionally illiterate (meaning they cannot comprehend a basic instruction manual) and very few can balance their checkbooks!
Our noble quest to offer equal opportunity for all has produced mediocre results for most!
Perhaps it is time to try a simpler approach. Early schooling should focus on the basics – yes the old “Three R’s”. (For those of you too young to know what that means, it stood for “Reading, Writing and Arithmetic”, even though the three words don’t actually start with the letter “R”). It is unlikely that a student will successfully learn anything meaningful unless they can read and write, and simple Math (Arithmetic) is handy when one is handling one’s own money. Only after these basics have been mastered can one be expected to learn and comprehend History, Science, Medicine, Law, Psychology or any other specialty.
A mechanic must be able to read manuals. An actor must read and memorize his lines. Chefs use Math every day to decipher recipes. Would you trust a Pharmacist who could not understand the lengthy list of possible side effects your prescription may entail or who couldn’t compute the proper dosage?
Let’s teach everyone the basics – first. Then; let’s instill a sense of responsibility by teaching Civics again. Let’s teach everyone about the founding of this nation. Not just “Black History” or “European History”, but “American History”. Every American should know what our free society really means, and how it differs from other forms of government.
Once every child can read, write and count – and once every child knows what really counts – then they can follow their own interests to further their education and create a life that is uniquely their own.