An Open Question: What do you most want your kids to learn in school?

Posted: April 18, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

I’m curious about what parents wan their kids to learn in school.  I’ll start by answering the question for myself.  I’m interested in how closely what I’d want for my own child lines up with what I am obligated to do at work.

1.  I want my child’s curiosity to be nurtured.  That means I want some of what he learns to be determined by what he is interested in at the time, which means the teacher needs the flexibility to make changes and follow a line of thinking wherever it goes.

2.  I want my child to learn to love reading.  I’m fearful of what will happen when he’s no longer motivated by statistics on Accelerated Reader.  I’m concerned that he isn’t getting that reading has an intrinsic value that can’t be measured quantitatively.

3.  I want him to learn mathematical reasoning–I want him to be able to estimate, to determine likely solutions to multi-step problems.  I want him to understand clearly what real world situations are reflected by various math problems.  Mathematics is the language in which we quantitatively describe the universe, including our own world.  Math is real.  I don’t want it to just be numbers on a page.

4.  I want him to learn about music.  I want him to know it as math, as language, as protest, and as love.  I want him to know the history of classical music and jazz and hip-hop, and I want him to understand that it has a cultural and historical relevance to all people, everywhere.  I want him to learn to make music, and to realize that everyone can.  Sure, only a few of us are born with Adele’s talent, but nearly everyone can learn to carry a tune or keep a simple beat.  We all have a song to sing!

5.  I want him to learn about art–what separates a good drawing from a poor one, how to render people and emotion through line and color, how to create the illusion of three dimensions where only two are possible.  I want him to know and see how as a species, our ability to do those things has changed from our earliest days to now.  I want him to see that his own work is part of that progression, and to know that anyone can practice and improve upon their artistic skills, even if they can’t practice themselves into being Monet.

6.  Most importantly, I want him to learn about his own abilities, and that a determined individual can change the world.  Those that have exist not only in history books.  They existed, and continue to exist and be born, in the world he lives in outside of school.  I want him to know history from many perspectives–not just the winner’s.  I want him to know about the atrocities, the injustices, and the shameful places humanity has been.  I want him to know those things so that he can determine what he believes to be true and important.  I want him to come home with difficult questions, with controversies to debate and facts to discuss.

-1.  And I don’t care if he never learns to take a standardized test.  No one ever talked to me about the SAT, I never practiced for it, and I never got any list of test taking strategies.  I scored 1300.  Not amazing, but not terrible either.  I’ll be fine with whatever my son can do on the SAT as long as the above requirements are consistently met.  Hint:  They won’t be, so I’ll be supplementing his state-mandated ten years of test preparation with an actual education at home, which I have to do on evenings and weekends since I’m busy at my own school subjecting other people’s children to the same thing my kid gets all day long.

What it seems like the bureaucrats don’t realize is that getting kids better at passing any given test proves nothing, in and of itself, except that we are good at getting more kids to be better at taking tests.  It’s madness.

If anyone comments that they would actually prefer schools spend more time getting their own child to pass minimum competency tests, like their state’s standardized test, (not the SAT), and they can convince me that they are being sincere, I will eat a practice test live on my web cam.

  1. momshieb says:

    My kids are grown up now, so I don’t know if my answer will still count. But what I wanted for all three of them, from the time they were born, was to value themselves as thinkers. I wanted them to be curious, and I wanted them to firmly believe that their ideas and creations had value.
    One of mine is a teacher now, one is a musician, and one is a college student.
    My wishes for them have not changed.
    Great question, very thoughtful post. Thank you!!

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