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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Write in the HISTORICAL genre (05/03/07)

TITLE: History of Education
By Jamie Rohde


The efficacy of education lies in its ability to induce change, enhance character, and inspire enduring knowledge. Education is not merely a way to open up a student’s head and pour in knowledge, thereby making them smarter. It should not be a vehicle to box a child in to fit the system. Instead, education should be something meaningful to the student. The knowledge or skill gained should be something that is useful to their future life and goals. This does not mean that everything is going to apply directly to a student’s life and interests, or that they are going to love everything that they are asked to learn. What is required is that the end result is that they have acquired a skill that they did not have that will enhance their future life. So, algebra and names and dates and terms are useful only if some higher level critical thinking evolves. In addition, once this relevant learning has taken place, other things begin to happen. Self-esteem rises, attitudes change, and a functioning member of society begins to emerge.
In reality the purpose and focus of education ought to be on the persons involved – the teacher and the student. This is an alternative approach to education that seems backwards when one considers the great emphasis put on standards and high-stakes tests in today’s educational system. Shouldn’t the focus be on the curriculum, making sure that it is aligned to standards and that it is taught well enough to “make the grade” for the school and the district, thereby keeping them away from sanctions and in the funding? The answer is no. The danger in this educational system is that it raises up a generation of people who know a little about everything (great for Jeopardy!, by the way) and yet know nothing because they cannot critically think for themselves or participate effectively in the greater society. Worse yet is the danger of cultivating people who new all the facts for the test and discarded them the minute it was over; the sum total being that they really never had an education at all. Both of these dangers are obvious when one looks at a society that is increasingly more and more focused on “me”. The focus is on what can be gained from an activity or how much more can be added to the coffers if this or that is done. This leads to people who do not care about anything unless it involves them or their general welfare. If the Vice-President of the United States is not important to me, why should I take the time to learn what he stands for, or for that matter, even learn his name? I already live in the United States and I’m benefiting from it, who cares what happened in the past – it’s just a bunch of names and dates!
It is in many ways more time consuming and less linear than traditional methods. Time is taken to make sure that the student has really gained the skill that we deemed important for them to take with them into the future. Therefore, if it takes three rough drafts of a paper, so be it. This method is also more active than others. With this philosophy, the teacher becomes less of a driving force and more of a facilitator, guiding the student on their path to discovery. The student engages in activities in the community outside the classroom (i.e. the nursing home across the street), participates in small group discussions and classroom debates, and works on real world problems and authentic assessments connecting the curriculum to their daily life. In short, the students learn by doing.
The cumulative effect of all this time and effort and care for the student is education – true education. As the quote by B.F. Skinner implies, it is not the names of the Revolutionaries or the dates of every battle of the Revolutionary War that our students should remember (that’s what Google is for) – let them forget that! What is important is that they understand why our Founding Fathers acted in the fashion they did, how that affects their lives today, and what that should inspire them to do with their lives and their resources. The true goal of a teacher should not be to teach facts, but rather to raise up confident, socially conscious, critically thinking men and women who will someday run the society they live in.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jamie Rohde05/10/07
Here's the B.F. Skinner quote that I absentmindedly forgot to put into the essay:

"Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten."
Donna Powers 05/11/07
You put a lot into this essay and your depth of knowledge is clearly demonstrated. Keep writing!
Lisa Holloway05/11/07
This is a good assessment of our current educational system, especially where you indicate the outcomes from teaching just a little of this-and-that without taking the time to dig deeper into meaningful topics. I think your suggestions would work especially well in a homeschool or small classroom setting.
Lisa Holloway05/11/07
Oh, by the way--I got so caught up in the thought behind the writing that I forgot to comment on the writing itself: the essay is well constructed. Nice job. :)