Monday, December 14, 2015

Children Are Not China Dolls, Part Eleventy-Billion

It's always gratifying when a young person notices the same trends I've noticed:
In my sophomore year, my community college hired me to help underclassmen with subjects for which I’d earned credit. Jack (everyone in this essay has a pseudonym) was evidently stressed even as I entered a private cubicle to greet him. When I asked him to show me what he was working on, he presented a stack of papers about adding and subtracting fractions.
My job included helping kids develop college-survival skills, as many didn’t know how to take notes or manage their time. Listening to complaints from students in a general chemistry class about how even a community college was so much more difficult than high school made it apparent they lacked such skills because those skills had not been previously necessary. I learned they were accustomed to regular reminders for homework, weekly fill-in-the-blank PowerPoint notes, and all-multiple-choice tests. (Emphasis mine.)
Gosh, that sounds familiar! But in all seriousness, if you're wondering how students can pass through high school learning absolutely nothing, you might want to consider this coddling as a major culprit. "Zombies" don't come from traditional, teacher-led curricula; they come from pandering and an absence of discipline.

If I were a teacher in a public high school, I would spend the first day of school reviewing optimum study habits -- and then, from that point on, I'd cut the apron strings. "I've given you some hints, guys, but now it's all up to you. Oh, and by the way, I don't believe in study guides. If you ask me what's going to be on a particular test, my answer will always be the same: 'If we've gone over it, it will be in there -- even if we went over it in September.'"

I suspect that wouldn't go over well -- at least, not at first. I do think, however, that if I were permitted to continue in that vein, I would better serve my students in the long run.

In related news, I've found yet another voice speaking up in favor of leaving even younger folks to their own devices:

Why Adults Have to Stop Trying So Darn Hard to Control How Children Play
Angela Hanscom
You can’t role-play empathy! Or lecture children to death on how important it is to include other children. Children need to learn these things through practice. LOTS of it! This is best done through daily play experiences with other children – especially outdoors, where children can roam, explore, and play away from the adult world.
Children are told what they can and can’t play, with many of the traditional games like tag and kickball becoming something of the past. Play dates are organized by adults to keep children entertained, safe, and happy. And what was once a tradition for the kids in the neighborhood to independently walk down to the local water source to play a game of pond hockey, has become an all-consuming hockey travel team where children are ranked and judged based on skill.
In the meantime, teachers are reporting that more and more children are having trouble regulating their emotions in school, struggling with a sense of entitlement, and constantly seeking out adult reassurance with just about any difficulty they encounter.
This links up pretty well with the aforementioned article from The Federalist. The common theme, of course, is adult micromanagement and the refusal to give school-aged children any credit. I don't want to sound like a stereotypical old biddy, but when Matt and I were kids, we somehow managed to survive many hours of basically unsupervised play without lingering psychological or physical injuries. Are today's children made of fundamentally different stuff? I think not.

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