American schools fail our children by institutionalizing learning.
American schools fail because they are managed by politicians and administrators. By their very nature, politicians and administrators are more concerned with money and power than the natural, holistic adventure of childhood learning.
In order to justify their positions of power, bureaucrats demand the codification of objectives, behavior labeling and the standardization of learning. They claim that test scores are the only measure of achievement, they demand extra funds for special interest programs and they use a one-size-fits-all mentality. Unfortunately for our children, none of these are productive.
Children are born positive, curious, confident, physical beings. They want to learn, they want to succeed, they want to build independence and they want approval. You can’t stop a toddler from learning to walk or talk, unless they are severely disabled and even then, they will try.
Children learn best when they are actively engaged and appropriately challenged. They learn best when they are having fun. They need to feel safe and appreciated. They need to physically experience skills and knowledge. They are not machines. They are not preprogrammed insects. Being forced to sit at a desk for hours on end, completing a series of worksheets which may or may not be at their level only destroys their natural enthusiasm for leaning.
While it is simple enough to determine whether or not a child can add or subtract or read a book, how do you measure social development? How can you codify confidence? By what ruler can you measure the discovery of a natural talent? Can you use numbers to measure enthusiastic problem solving? It’s not only our successes that teach us. If Gold Stars are the only measure of success, what happens to the Blue Star kids?
The structurization of learning environments ignores the nature of children. You can’t compare children to test scores. You can’t define a child by their behavior problems. You can’t expect a child to be happy, healthy or learning when they spend hours at a desk and only minutes outside each day.
The institutionalization of education stifles creativity and complex thinking and problem solving. If there is only one “acceptable” way to solve a problem, then other solutions are lost. If only one textbook is available, what happens to the knowledge from other sources? It is lost. We all lose.
Children love to learn. They revel in discovery. Exploring and gaining new skills excites them. The only way American schools can succeed is to align themselves more correctly with the natural nature of children by individualizing instruction, giving more leverage (and pay) to teachers and recognizing that humans beings are far too complex to codify with numbers.