By: Judy Lyden
Everybody learns differently, but there are a few human rules that are true about learning. Most people learn more from what they enjoy than from what is forced on them. People retain more of what they learn with rest stops in between difficult learning tasks. People will be more interested in learning if the learning is colorful, funny or entertaining.
Bosh, you say. Learning is not supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be difficult, that's why it's called learning.
Ouch, I reply.
Learning has gotten a bad rap recently. As schools tighten the screws on desk time, the social or community angle, as they rid the place of the arts, and what used to be called discipline, kids learn less and less because, quite frankly, it isn't fun. Going to school is a tedious and often humiliating bore.
Let's start with time. School often means a twelve hour day - 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Children are dropped by one parent in the morning and left till the bitter end at night. They might as well be in prison. In the winter time, some children never see the sunlight.
Now let's go to the social angle. Did you know that teens in high school will probably say fewer than 93 words a day at school? There was a study done someplace and because of the rush, rush, rush to be in one class or another, and the rush, rush, rush to get a gluttonous muck lunch gobbled down quick, teens have actually stopped being social at school. The point is not to ask questions, not to discuss anything, just grunt and groan and go home. It's punishing for young people to be quiet all day long. Brains die.
With schools spending more on health education, social awareness issues and other politically correct agenda building, there is less money for the arts. Art used to be a magnificent escape from bleak into beautiful, because art is an expression of the human heart. Now literature classes are dark places with movies. Discussion about the human heart is limited by the clock.
And discipline is also a punitive thing rather than structure building thing. I always thought that discipline was supposed to be the thing that built character, but today discipline is a random shot in the crowd or in the case of young children something we leave for never.
If you turned all this around and rebuilt schools from the ground up, and really worked on building that "Strong American Individual" we all aspire to be, you would have to begin to shorten time children spend away from home. Children love being home, and quite frankly, the 6-6 in school restriction is inhibiting rather than encouraging. It's turning children into passive creatures rather than children with enthusiastic imaginations. Children should be home to explore their own minds and recreate in their own environment and then bring that to school to exchange.
Next thing we need to do is shorten classroom hours and allow for a lot more in school socializing. Establishing break times for kids to actually talk with teachers, with one another and begin to explore the likes and dislikes of friends and actually exchange ideas is important. Being able to hold a real conversation with others is part of being an adult.
Next, we'd have to make art a focal point of exploring self and integrate the arts with other disciplines, like math and science. Music and math are closely related, but young people have to find that out after they graduate from high school.
And discipline would press in upon the individual as a self defining and character building scheme instead of the letter of the law breaking the heart of the spirit of the law. But truthfully, with school a desirable place to be, the need for discipline would be nominal.
And finally, when we have found enough time to engage in real learning, we would discover that hey, we all learn differently, and we all like learning because it's fun.