By Ian Lawton
A young girl finished her first week of school. Her parents asked her how she felt about it. She said,”It’s not going so well. I can’t read, I can’t write – and they won’t let me talk!”
Most people would agree that the education system could be improved if not completely overhauled.
In America, it seems to be as much a class, race and poverty issue as much as an education issue. It’s the gap in performance between wealthy, and white kids and poor, black and Hispanic kids that’s the issue. Any solution to education issues needs to include remedies for poverty.
The solution to education and remedies for poverty are both at heart cultural issues. What sort of a world do we want to live in? Do we value ALL people, and all types of intelligence? Do we nurture kids to be who THEY want to be, rather than what we want them to be?
There is so much more to education than the 3 R’s, reading, righting and rithematic. The 3 Rs themselves leave out spelling. There is also the other 3 R’s, that actually begin with R. Respect for self, Respect for others and Responsibility for all your actions.
Do we value emotional intelligence? I noticed recently that when an adult asked my 12 year old son how he was, he answered “Good, and how are you?” I was impressed, and remembered that his third grade teacher had taught the class to always follow up a question with interest in the other person. She had begun to teach the kids about mutual respect and healthy communication.
Do we value creativity and the arts? Gordon Mackenzie was an artist with Hallmark. When he spoke to school groups, he always began by asking the question, “How many artists are there present today.” The responses were predictable.
When he asked kindergarten and first grade kids, almost every arm would shoot into the air. In second grade, about half the kids would raise their hands. In third grade, about 10 kids of 30 self consciously raise their hands. By the time he reached sixth grade, no more than one or two would nervously raise their hands.
The cookie cutter world we live in tends to want to force all of us into the same mold. If only we saw the value in creativity for problem solving and the power of diverse expression for understanding.
The author G K Chesterton said, “There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect.” The power of the arts and creativity is to touch the heart, and connect intuitively with the emotions.
Creative intelligence is every bit as important as literacy.
Do we value empathy?
Baron de Montesquieu said, “A really intelligent man feels what other men only know.”
I heard an awesome story about a college professor who included this question in a test, “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”
The students all thought it was a joke. As one woman said, “I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired, a woman in her fifties, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank.”
She asked the professor if the question would count toward grades. “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.”
As the student said, “I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.”
Do we value authenticity?
I would like to think the education system encourages kids to stay true to themselves, to follow their passions, trust their instincts, speak their truth even if their voice shakes, to live their values with integrity; in short to live fully, think freely and act with compassion.
Do we value character?
Martin Luther King Jr said, “Intelligence plus character-
I can’t add anything to that!