Friday, October 22, 2010
Why Don't Students Like School?
Why don't students like school? Seriously?
You'd think with a title like this, you're in for some juicy reading from a person who understands the kid's point of view.
But don't judge a book by its title. The author Daniel Willingham, a cognitive scientist is well meaning but falls short of the mark.
According to the research he quotes, humans might be curious but we don't like to think. Why? because it's hard.
And this basically is the reasoning behind why students don't like school.
So the point of the book?
It serves as a heavy duty 'how to' handbook for teachers and educators to give them tips on how to get their students to enjoy learning (since according to him, we humans avoid using our brains at all cost); to create, like a magician might, opportunities to "feel the rush" of a discovery more often.
It basically asks of teachers that they try to make schools "not a place of boredom and drudgery" but excitement and discovery (38).
Willingham says people need background knowledge in order to think critically but he also says "It's better to have a smattering of knowledge than no knowledge."(35). I'm not so sure. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, or so the saying goes.
An exhausting read.
To me, it seems absurd to first carve out specific places of learning and then proceed to create these expectations. What an incredible tall order to deliver. To have to take on such a responsibility seems daunting, unfair and even presumptuous.
Frankly if I were a teacher I would want to give up.
If you're authentically excited about something then that automatically generates enthusiasm in those others who resonant with what you're into-it will still do nothing for those who aren't interested.
Taking offense at the 'bright lights' that have 'denigrated school" the author simply fails to see the obvious; that the 'background' knowledge he insists develops critical thinking was an interference for these thinkers who wanted instead to pursue what they were passionate about.
Background knowledge comes after-as a result of following your interest and building on that solid foundation.
The book has merit only insofar as a platform in which to once more expose schooling strategies as fundamentally intrusive.
Teaching is an act of persuasion he says. And that to me says it all.