Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I can't shake this quote

As I have been thinking about education both here and in the States, I keep thinking about a quote by Emerson.

“It facilitates labor and thought so much that there is always the temptation in large schools to omit the endless task of meeting the wants of each single mind, and to govern by steam. But it is at frightful cost. Our modes of Education aim to expedite, to save labor; to do for masses what cannot be done for masses, what must be done reverently, one by one: say rather, the whole world is needed for the tuition of each pupil.”     ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is found in an essay that I make my students read each year, and every year, I am struck by how our system is mostly at cross purposes with what students need.  By pushing them into large classes and demanding that they learn the same thing at the same pace in the same way as people who are remarkably different from them, we totally miss that each child is meant to be educated reverently and with attention to their interests, curiosities, and surroundings.  In both systems, students who do not fall in line and absorb what is taught in the way it is taught are labeled as slow and left behind.  Even as we attempt to slow down the machine of schools and wait for these left behind students we show a lack of concern for the advanced needs of those who don't need to wait.  It is interesting that neither of our systems have figured out yet that the system is in the way.  In our desire to help all students, we are effectively blocking them from receiving the purest of educations where their curiosity seeks out the answers that the world could provide.

Today, I am traveling to some slums with 2 classes of 6th grade students where they will perform some outreach education to those less fortunate.  I am interested to see how these students who are pushed through endless lectures will sensitively meet the needs of the students they encounter today.

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