What Should Education Look Like?

Dear Reader,

This post is one I had written a while back but negelected to publish. It is on Scott Kaufman’s book, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (see my earlier post on it here). There are just a few more passages that struck me that I wanted to talk about briefly so this post will be kind of a catch-all of what remains.

I have been intrigued lately by how the various books I have read that touch on the topic of education all seem to say similar things. It makes one think perhaps we should be listening to them, hmm? Instead of continuing to dp the things that not only don’t work but drive our children crazier and crazier.

On that note, Kaufman talks about the need to make tasks relevant and to satisfy the child’s fundamental human needs:

“Contextualized tasks can lead to a greater sense of competence . . . tasks that are intrinsically motivating satisfy the basic human psychological needs for competence (the despite to feel capable of mastery and accomplishment), autonomy (the desire to feel in control of one’s decisions), and relatedness (a desire to feel a sense of connections with peers).” (p. 101)

There is a lot in here. Like the need to be internally motivated rather than to rely on grades and prizes. There is also a respect  for the child as a person with basic human drives that should be met, not a product to be shaped at our discretion. There is also the need to feel in control of one’s own life which was discussed in Free to Learn as well. In that book, Peter Gray posited that the lack of control children feel in school contributes to their increased anxiety and to bullying. And finally, there is the idea of relatedness. Though Kaufman is speaking of connection to one’s peers, I do not think it is far from Charlotte Mason’s idea that we need relationships with the material we study, that we can form connections with the people and places we read about and that this in turn makes what we study meaningful.

So perhaps it is not suprising that the conclusion is that we must educate the whole child:

“Counterintuitively — and contrary to the practice of most schools — the most efficient and cost-effective route to obtaining the best academic outcomes for all students is not a narrow focus on content but a focus on the whole child, including their social, emotional, and physical development.” (p. 143)

Again, this emphasis on the whole child treats him as a person, not just a product.

And as a person, he or she will be an individual, with unique, and perhaps ever-changing, goals. Since we cannot predict what these will be, our best approach is to provide strategies which help him or her pursue those goals whatever they may end up being:

” . . . we should arm all young people with a very general set of skills that will serve them well in life, enabling them to realize the many goals they will adopt throughout their lifespan.

Characteristics such as critical thinking, working memory, mental flexibility, deliberate practice, communication and social skills, public speaking skills, compassion, emotional self-regulation, self-regulated learning strategies, growth mindset, and divergent thinking are essential for everyone.” (p. 305)

Most of Kaufman’s book is aimed at coming up with this list of what makes people successful, what makes them superstars even, in their chosen fields. And though the fields may differ from sports to arts to academia, the list he gives above is his summary of the common characteristics that are found in those who do succeed.

This comment on to of these characteristics particularly caught my attention:

“Some researchers argue that the reason working memory and fluid reasoning are so strongly correlated with each other is because they both require the control of attention.” (p. 194)

The reason I was so intrigued is that Charlotte Mason also places a high premium on the habit of attention as key to a good and efficient education. And yet what is the growing trend in our schools? Attention-deficit disorder. I have heard parents say that up to 80% of the boys are on medications for ADHD or the like. Those are crazy numbers.

Switching topics, I also liked the idea that the best learning is implicit:

“Most, perhaps as much as 95 percent, of the learning that takes place in our day-to-day lives operates implicitly — no explicit instruction was available or necessary . . . Compared to conscious, deliberate thought, our implicit learning structures are much faster and more efficient.” (p. 236)

This fits well with my belief (a la Charlotte Mason again) that children need to do their own learning, that it is not something we can force.

And that is what I have on Ungifted. I think you can tell that it is a book I would recommend.

Nebby

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