Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Counter Counter-point

In response to my 'New Ideas' Post, fellow blogger Evan wrote a counterpoint, where he got entirely the wrong end of the stick. In fact, I don't think he could have got it more wrong. However, after re-reading my post, I saw that this was mostly was due to my bad writing and not being clear… I had another post in mind anyway, so I thought I'd use that to clear things up.

Not to say there won't be misunderstanding here probably. This is, quite franky, a massive topic I could probably write a book on…so think of this as cliff notes.

Evan said:

"There seems to be an undercurrent in Paul's post that assumes home schooling parents are right-wing, fundamentalist, religious nut jobs who don't want their children exposed to the evil teachings of evolution, contraception and so forth…it's no longer reasonable to assume that public school is adequately producing the critical thinkers that Paulius seeks."

That's almost the exact opposite of what I was getting at. I certainly don't think all parents who home school there kids are 'right-wing, fundamentalist nutjobs', if I did, I'd think my wife was a right-wing, fundamentalist nutjob… because Sunny home schooled both her sons…and for many of the reasons Evan touched on in his post.

The truth is, I don't think home-schooling is bad and public schools are good. I actually think the entire education system is broken. It's the fact that our public schools aren't producing critical thinkers that's the big problem.

I've always said that doing well in school is more about having a great memory than actually being intelligent. It doesn't matter if the kids understand what they're taught, just so long as they memorize the material and can parrot it back on a test. Not to mention with academic league tables meaning that school funding (and in many cases, the teachers' jobs) being dependent on as many kids as possible passing, schools aren't challenging our kids anymore, because they just can't risk too many failing.

Basically, teachers want kids to just learn what's on the syllabus. Why take half an hour out of a class to answer questions and talk about different points of view when it's not going to come up on the test?

In fact, one of the lasting impressions I got from high school was that questioning the syllabus was a bad thing. For example, in English Literature I failed a paper because my interpretation of 'The Lord of the Rings' wasn't the one we'd been spoon-fed in class. Apparently, there's only one possible interpretation of a piece of literature, and I'd got it 'wrong'.

Basically, when a kid asks a question or offers a different point of view to the syllabus, instead of being rewarded they're treated as 'disruptive'. All we do is teach kids to pass tests. The one question kids never get asked in school is "What do you think and why?"

"As for teaching our kids about other religions... well, that's good, but only to a point. We can teach our kids about Islam, but that doesn't mean that Muslims will teach their children about Christianity. And to add a practical note to this.... when would we squeeze this in? The kids are already too busy preparing for their No Child Left Behind test."

Firstly, I don't see why Muslims not educating their kids about Christianity is a reason for us to do the same. Ok, I know I'm being idealistic here (which is strange, because I'm usually so cynical), but I just don't see why Islamic schools keeping their kids ignorant of any other religions is a reason for us not to give our kids as broad a view of religion as possible.

As for where to squeeze this in…well, I wasn't just talking about American schools. In England, I went to a Catholic school where we had 'Religious Education' three times a week. My point was that I feel these classes would be better if they were actually 'Religious Education', teaching kids about lots of different religions rather than the 'Catholic Indoctrination' classes that they really were.

Evan went on to say:

"I will say that I firmly agree with Paulius' final point. Raising our children to think critically is a good thing. They should be able to see both sides of any issue and come to their own conclusion, based on their own thoughts and experiences, rather than inheriting opinions from others. But it's a fallacy to think that home-schooling automatically breeds narrow-mindedness. It's incorrect to expect that a public education will produce freethinkers, and it's simplistic to say that understanding eliminates conflict."

I absolutely agree that homeschooling doesn't automatically breed narrow mindedness, and I absolutely agree that public education doesn't produce free thinkers…in fact, the whole point of my last post on this subject was that public schools absolutely don't produce free-thinkers…and while I agree that it is simplistic to say that understanding eliminates conflict. What I will say, however, is that while understanding doesn't eliminate conflict, it certainly alleviates conflict.

Two people who understand the other's point of view are far more likely to reach a compromise than two people who don't. What is bigotry and prejudice if not ignorance based on a single viewpoint and a black and white world view that doesn't allow for shades of grey?

If I'm going to switch back to my old cynical self, even if understanding other points of view isn't going to eliminate conflict, it's at least a case of 'Know your enemy'.

1 comment:

Evan 08 said...

As long we agree that it was your writing, not my interpretation :)