Saturday, February 04, 2006

Are Schooled Kids Getting Dumber?

This article from the Sunday Times suggests that they are, though my guess is that it all depends on the question you ask.

Given that we cannot individually know even a small percentage of everything, it makes no sense that everyone should know the same thing, so even by their own standards of social engineering, (the intent behind today's schooling), the National Curriculum doesn't make sense.

And a final makes much more sense that variety should be introduced into the system by playing to the different strengths of different learners. How best to do this? Autonomous education.

HT: Izzy.


Anonymous said...

I think this is possibly the result of the continuous interference (i.e. constant assessment and the need to know *exact* strings of facts to pass levels)- and nothing else - that means that the actual ability to think is being suppressed and lost. Our children aren't becoming thicker on their own, we are encouraging it.

The Sunday Times article says:
"The tests reveal both general intelligence — “higher level brain functions” — and a knowledge that is “the bedrock of science and maths” says Ginsburg. In fact it’s nothing less than the ability of children to handle new, difficult ideas."

I have heard several very experienced teachers express the view that in many ways creativity and individuality were better able to survive when teachers interfered and 'helped' less in school. This certainly suggests that more autonomy would be good. Godwin backs this up too when he notes how much worse it was for the individually tutored pupil (back in the 18th c) than for the boy lost in a pack at boarding school because at least he had friends with whom he could find creative solutions to the problem of oppression.

However, I don't know that it isn't a good thing for people to know a reasonable amount of similar things. It certainly helps communication, society and government if all citizens can engage in debate; and surely this requires ability to read, write and understand the basic facts about the world. Maybe it is just how they get these skills that needs to be questioned.


Carlotta said...

Hi D,

A general yes to all that and on your last point, I do agree that, to paraphrase David Friedman from the previous link, there is a basic bedrock of knowledge that most people (though I would add, not necessarily everyone) will find useful. I would agree with him in thinking that these would be an ability to read, to write or type, and to do basic arithmetic. I would also include: an ability to reason, to be truth-seeking and to be a fallibilist...but all of these skills may be acquired in so many different ways that the Nat Curriculum is even here a poor answer to the problem of acquisition of basic skills. Again, the one-size fits all answer will just not do!