Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Schooling confuses teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. ~ Wendy Priesnitz

I'm not terribly familiar with Ms. Preisnitz but if this quote is any indication, I like the way she thinks. I am also partial to the quote, "Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners." Not sure who said that. But I've come to find it so true.

I went to public school. "And I turned out fine." LOL Isn't that always the argument? "I was spanked and I turned out fine." "My mother smoked and I turned out fine." "We never wore sunscreen and we turned out fine." And so forth. As if not being a social deviant or homicidal maniac somehow justifies everything.

I wonder just how "fine" I turned out. I was a bright child. My report cards reflect that. Not the grades, but the comments. ".... is a smart girl. But she doesn't apply herself." Yeah, I was smart. And bored. Very bored. I never felt particularly motivated to do better than I had to in order to get by. I was happier to spend time with my friends. And as I got older it only got worse. By high school I was all about my peers and the music I listened to. My parents lost virtually all influence over me and knew nothing more than my report cards showed them. I was passing my classes. Not excelling. Not even working at my full potential. But passing was the goal, right?

So I spent my teen years separating from family and bonding with friends. Music had just as much influence in my life. Spending that many hours a day away from home afforded me a lot of time to cultivate the interests and relationships that shaped much of who I identified myself as in those days.

Do I blame the school system entirely? Of course not. How can I? It served it's function. Push as many through as possible with the goal of mediocrity. "Pass" was the point. Anything above that was gravy. Excellence was something for the individual to strive for, but was not really facilitated by the system. Teachers had a class full of students they had to ensure were at least average. They couldn't take much time to make sure those who were already past average were being challenged.

So what brought this on? Especially when the tone of this blog has a decidedly foodie flair? I was looking at my (home schooled) 5 year old son's math work today. He did a page of problems that were like this... 85 = ___+____ At first glance it looked like he didn't get it. Until I looked closer. His answer? 85 = -5 + 90. Correct!

He won't be 6 until nearer to the end of the year, and he's taught himself negative numbers and is using them in every day math. Why? Because it was part of a program that I taught him? No. Because it is what he should be learning at this age? Certainly not according to the public school system. He did it because he wanted to learn it. Much of what he knows he's learned himself, following his interests (which lie largely in math and science).

I could say that I can't imagine how bored he'd be in school, but I can imagine it. I was just as bored. But I didn't have anyone encouraging me to learn at my own pace and explore my interests. Instead I was taught to do what everyone else was doing. Sit quietly. Do only the work you're given. Finished it quickly? Sit quietly some more. Do not go ahead in your workbook. Don't listen to the lessons for the next grade (our school had split grade classes). Fit the mold. Excel on your own time.

I'm not anti-public school. I just don't want it for my children. I don't want them to turn out "fine." I want them to turn out amazingly excellent!

1 comment:

  1. That is awesome! Looks like you have a math scholar. :D

    I was bored in school, too. I was constantly in trouble for talking and had to sit next to the teacher. I turned out "fine", too, but it wasn't until college that I was really challenged. Thankfully, a pastor came along and taught me logic. Something so simple, but something this straight A student had missed.

    Peace to you,