When Will We Use This? – Part Two

Of course his answer to that might be “Ok, but I’m not interested in earth science”. A further complication is the length and intensity of the course may be a lot if it’s purpose is just to expose students to the subject.

The philosophical progressive, liberal arts premise is that everything is connected to everything else and to be truly knowledgeable and therefore wise a broad body of knowledge is essential. What I don’t know is whether I believe such breadth of knowledge is a luxury or a necessity. (That’s the debate from my other post about making all education about ‘profession’). I also don’t know if a progressive education requires a solid essentialist foundation.

On the one hand, it’s easy to say “Our schools are failing to teach many children to read and write. Let’s put all our resources into that so that they have a basic chance to survive.” That’s certainly a ‘science’ of teaching argument. You have to know inorganic chemistry to learn organic chemistry, or whatever.

On the other hand, the ‘art’ of teaching might argue that the most important thing is for a child to find a spark that lights his or her imagination. Once the imagination is lit, they’ll learn what they need including all the essentials. If the imagination isn’t lit, every day is just like pushing the kids across a carpet face down like a vacuum cleaner.

And that’s the scary part of that second argument. The essentialist instinct has a strong tendency to suck all the fun out of learning. It doesn’t have to of course, but the whole ‘drilling and testing standards’ thing has a mechanical air to it that lends itself to forgetting the flesh and blood. If firing the imagination is key, the harder the system tries to force core learning, the fewer children will retain their inborn love of learning.

I don’t know whether firing Childrens’ imaginations is essential to learning but I have a strong sense that it is a very positive effect on kids of any resource level. I can’t imagine anybody making this argument in a political forum but maybe somebody should be advocating brining the joy and wonder back to education.

You said you aren’t that excited about earth science yourself. Maybe the best way to help that kid is to find something in the subject that does excite you and share it with him. I’d be curious if it helps.

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