Once again, I sat down with the wisest person I’ve ever met. In this conversation, he and I brainstormed about the educational system. As with all of my conversations with him, I experienced the sensation of being educated about subjects I may not have considered. This dialogue was no different. As usual, he leads with questions.
He asked me if I knew the etymology of the word education. That led me to Wikipedia. There I learned that etymologically, the word "education" is derived from the Latinēducātiō ("A breeding, a bringing up, a rearing") from ēdūcō ("I educate, I train") which is related to the homonym ēdūcō ("I lead forth, I take out; I raise up, I erect") from ē- ("from, out of") and dūcō ("I lead, I conduct"). With that said, he asked if I could discern what was missing in the educational system. He asserted that we’ve lost sight of the intention of the word educate.
I’m rarely foolish enough to defend my point of view against him. Therefore, I listened. And he gave me an earful.
He said the educational system starts with a presupposition that children are not intelligent. On the other hand, some institutions believe many four years olds qualify as geniuses. Why is it that so many children grow to dislike school and do just enough to get by if they start as geniuses? It may be because we don’t leverage the brilliance children already possess. If you look at the word education, it has more to do with bringing up, to lead oneself, conduct and come out of. These children already have what it takes to lead themselves. They only require guidance.
The educational system is the opposite of empowering children to lead themselves. Instead of guidance, we impose beliefs upon them. We demand they memorize thoughts, beliefs and discoveries of others. We are asking them to be robots with memory chips. We do not engage them in such a way they develop authentic thinking. They only learn to rely on thoughts in their memory. What’s worse, is many of the tests are multiple choice or true and false. And there are people who do not memorize the material. They just memorize if the answer is A, B, C, D or true or false.
In that paradigm, children never learn to lead themselves. In fact, that method teaches children to shut themselves down and value the knowledge of others more than they value their own innate brilliance.
I told him his analysis was harsh. He said he was still being nice. However, he said there is a better way to guide people to lead themselves to authentically think.
He suggested teachers serve as a guide to students. Instead of the teacher being at the front of the class, each student would be better served if they led class lessons. The teacher’s role would be to work with each student to help them prepare for their turn at leading a lesson.
In that paradigm, the students would have to know the material to teach it to his or her peers. The student would also benefit if they could give their perspective on what they learned and how it relates to supposedly unrelated matters. That would encourage thinking. Furthermore, the other students would study the material with the intent of quality control. They would be more critical of their peers leading class than they are of the teacher. Some of the students would question their peers in a more challenging way than they would question the teacher.
This method would ensure students learn the material and lead themselves. The idea of critical thinking would become first nature and it would leverage the brilliance they already possess.
What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.