Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Educational Theories by a non-educator

So, I can't be the only one with pet theories on how to improve the education system, and the future generation. For years I've had ideas (going to a K8 system and abolishing middle school, making volunteering actively part of the curriculum for 6-12th grade, not just to get them involved and help them become better citizens, but to show kids how capable they truly are, making a program for kids on "Everyday Heroes" to illustrate that being a Rapper or a NBA superstar isn't the only way to be a success) that I've held onto and nursed.

But recently I had validation for some of my theories, when our son came home from biology full of information on the adolescent brain.
The idea of studying the adolescent brain was brilliant. What a great way for Carol Campbell, ace biology teacher, to get the kids involved. They love to talk, think, write about themselves. And it also gave them vital information about how their brains work, and don't work.
While some might think the information that adolescent brains are full of logical holes, inability to foresee future consequences and don't fully mature until 25 would just make a big EXCUSE for bad behavior, I think that it lets the kids off the treadmill of self-abuse.
OK, we know they forget things easily, become distracted, and can't see that handing their three year old brother a heavy weapon-like thing is a bad idea--but they also know it on some level, and can't stop themselves. Then they blame themselves, wonder if they're mentally impaired, crazy or lazy beyond belief. To allow kids to know the challenges they face to learning, and yet how capable they are, was a darned good idea. Bravo Ms. Campbell.
Actually, since I was young I thought that the age of reason was 26 (rational perspective with the ability to look backward and imagine foreward), the age of survival was 19 (the risk of suicidal behavior seems to go down at this point, live hard, die young, leave a good-looking corpse might start to look less appealing as adult interests develop), and that 16 was way too young to drive.
I didn't learn until 25.
I was taking drugs at sixteen and didn't think I was mature enough to be driving a potentially deadly weapon. Some have pointed out that this was a mature decision, but I think it was the ONLY decision, and besides, after I stopped taking drugs at seventeen, there were no opportunities to learn to drive, plus, I had no money for a car.
Brain development is fascinating.
As the parent of three children, it has been incredible watching those three individuals develop and how differently they have done so. They have differing learning styles, and you can practically watch their brains grow.
You can certainly see when it is happening with a three year old; a brain-storm is an ugly thing.
I can't do much about making K8s universal, though Portland has just gone to that system, so we'll be seeing the results in a few years. Our youngest may be lucky enough to go to a K8.
Volunteering as a group activity, watching actual change happen due to the efforts of individuals may be harder to mastermind, but I'll work on it.
"Everyday Heroes" will take big money. Bill Gates, are you listening? A generation is suffering from lack of role models in the community, and the sense that they have lost already if they aren't on a Reality Show, playing for the Chicago Bulls or recording a new CD. Being a dentist is a big accomplishment, paying the mortgage every month, driving your kids to swimming, working for a non-profit because you care: these are heroic activities. Kids need to know that an honorable life is a good life. And that honor isn't measured with dollars.
OK, I'll step off the soapbox. And find out what's on PBS.

On the easel: Blue
On tape: Look to the Lady by Margery Allingham
On the nightstand: The Old Fox Deceived
On the desk: Da Vinci Arts Middle School Auction form
On the brain: Freshman sports, how long this cold has been going on, looking forward to painting tonight, my dental appointment on Friday

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