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In Response to My Son - His view on traditional educational method

 Brendan's article - More than Student
Is it simply the learning of things?

Is it the ability -born through experience- to spot the salient issues of any given situation...

Is it learning how to learn?

Click on the picture to read "More Than Student"
An article by my son, Brendan Schatzki

In Response to My Son - His view on traditional educational method

That education is valuable is almost unanimously undisputed: yet what education is is open to vociferous debate. Is it simply the learning of things? Is it the ability- born through experience- to spot the salient issues of any given situation, and to recognize that others might interpret them differently (and, perhaps, no less validly)? Is it learning how to learn?

All of these are important, and all are part of education: yet none is sufficient on its own to define the word satisfactorily. A computer, for example, is able to recall far more than any human, and can calculate far more quickly, yet we don't typically refer to it as "educated." There must be more to being educated than the simple accumulation of facts, then, even though we greatly admire those who know a lot.

Understanding not only ideas, but also when to implement them, is far closer to the meaning of the word. Teachers often like to suggest they provide their students with tools they can use to help solve problems in their lives. It's great to know how to use a hammer and a saw, for instance, but equally important is the knowledge of when to use each. If you need to cut a piece of wood you need to know not only how to use a saw, but also that the saw -rather than the hammer- is the tool you should pick up.

Of course, another individual might suggest that the wood needn't be cut at all, or that the problem could be addressed differently, and an educated person should at least entertain such suggestions.

Finally, the ability to learn new things -using the synthesis between your own persona and your past experiences- is critical. No one knows everything, of course, but having the capacity and open-mindedness both to seek out and incorporate new ideas and approaches in one's life is widely regarded as a distinguishing characteristic of an educated individual.

The people in institutions of learning (aka schools) understand all this, but they are also faced with the additional pressure of being held accountable for their efforts with regard to the students in their charge. This means most student assessments are "objective," as in "quantifiable:" How much "correct" information does a student know? How well does she understand the structure of a five paragraph essay? How many historical dates can he regurgitate? How accurately can he solve a math problem? It's much harder to measure a student's ability at the more subjective goals of education.

About the Author
Ralph Schatzki
Ralph Schatzki
A husband, father, singer, teacher, writer, and lawyer. He has performed many lead operatic roles in America and Southeast Asia. After practicing law in Connecticut he moved to Thailand where he taught high school math at an international school for several years. An avid Red Sox fan he has written many articles.
Fortunately, good instructors know that teaching the less observable/measurable aspects of a good education can dramatically enhance a student's ability in retaining these more observable ones, so many students obtain a good education as a result. Nevertheless, the insistence on standardized testing as the sole means (for all practical purposes) of evaluating the relative success of a teacher or a school means that an explicit message is being sent out to our students: "What matters is the information you learn." Often, this even results in the sabotage of their educations through cheating, which deprives them of the richness they would otherwise gain through a struggle in considering issues critically. It is an incredible disservice to many students that they are made to feel that education is only about the information they learn and nothing else.

This is true even more so in the age in which we live, where computers are both available and far more capable than we in retrieving factual data. Knowing "stuff" won't get you very far since everyone has access: it's what you do with it that counts.

This does not completely obviate the need for learning basic information, of course. After all, it's the context for everything: how can you have an insightful conversation about something without knowing what it is, first? But let's make sure we also give our students the ability to do things with the information they have so readily at their fingertips.

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