I've been thinking lately, as I plan preschool curriculum and have lots of learning opportunities around the house, about the purpose of schooling.
As I teach, I find myself gravitating towards an attitude of preparation rather than exploration. I want to make sure the kids are prepared for the rigorous demands of kindergarten, and lest you think I'm joking, I'm astounded at the amount of information kindergarten-ers are required to learn in class!
I find myself worried about the students who don't know their upper case letters and are entering the school system next year. Our preschool is one of the best around. I love it there, we have caring and loving staff, small intimate classes, with a LOT of one on one attention, but regardless of it's merits, it still has to follow societal expectations and demands.
I think society is moving towards a preparation and testing approach in general. What I mean by that is the attitude seems to be unsaid but very loudly heard: preschool is to prepare kids for kindergarten. Kindergarten to prepare kids for 1st grade, 1st grade to prepare kids for 2nd grade.... and so on. It feels like there is a check list (ok, not "feels" like, I believe this IS actually one of the underlying principles of no child left behind...) that each kid has to just memorize a certain about of information in order to qualify to move forward. Make sure each child can meet the quota and pass them on to the next grade.
I found myself wondering today, what IS the real purpose of education? What do I hope for when I send my kids to school? Just to be prepared for the next year?
I think the purpose of school should be threefold: 1. To create a love of learning. 2. To help develop inquisitive minds and 3. To encourage and help grow problem solving skills
If you love learning, have learned to question why things are the way they are and not to just accept it because your teacher says it's so, and you have the tools to find solutions, to experiment, to research.... well I can't think of a lot more I'd ever hope for in my children's education.
I don't think our school system is set up for this at all. Kindergarten has no rest time, no free play time. It DOES have two recesses, which I think is great and necessary for kids that age. But they move through centers at 15-20 minute intervals and if they aren't done with a project, they are hurried through it because they can't fall behind. Don't create too much of a mess either, because you have to do math centers right after this "science" project in the same room, and hurry up with your math because then we have to sit at tables and finish up our worksheets on letters.
I know it's easy to complain, and much harder to solve the problem. I'm not saying that I have a solution, but I'm pretty sure our lack of innovation and economic growth is proof that our school system is failing our kids. I know if parents don't start thinking and worrying, and doing something about it, our schools certainly aren't getting any better. After all, we ARE paying for it, and our kids will be paying for it long after we're gone.