I feel the need to write about something that’s really beginning to cause me some concern. It has to do with the younger generations and our current system of education. I don’t pretend to have all the details, but I’ve heard some things and I’ve had some “feelings” that make me troubled about how we are preparing our youth for life in this reality.
It will be 50 years, come June, since I graduated from high school. My daughter is a grown woman and has grown children of her own. Even most of my grandchildren are graduated from high school – the youngest is a freshman in high school this year. In the time since I’ve graduated, school – from elementary through high school – seems to have changed a great deal.
I recognize that this isn’t the world I grew up in. Black and white Tvs, with only 3 channels, have been replaced by HD color and the ability to watch your favorite programs on “pads” and mobile phones. Advanced technology, that we only dreamed of when I was a child, has now become part of every day life in this reality. Is that an excuse, though, for what appears to be happening?
When I was in school, education was very well-rounded. Reading, writing and arithmetic were part of our learning but so was art, music and physical education. We were encouraged to read, learn to spell and learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide, but we also were taught volleyball, basketball, dancing, singing, painting and drawing. Both sides of our brains were nourished and encouraged to grow and become all that they could.
One of the first things that started causing me concern over a decade ago was how parents were filling their children’s lives so full of activities that they really had no opportunity to just be kids. Kids were becoming as stressed as their parents, only at a much younger age. The mantra seemed to be “Achieve, achieve, achieve!” I knew then there was something wrong, something terribly out of balance about that.
As the years have gone by, stories of increasing budget cuts provided more concerns when I heard that many schools put at the top of their lists art and music to axe in order to meet those budgets. Recently I heard that schools would no longer teach children to write in cursive. Even more recently, I heard that recess and physical education were facing the axe by some schools.
I realize that, since I attended school, the USA has dropped behind many countries in our scholastic rankings in math and science. Obviously, this needs attention, but at what cost? I’m not talking about dollar-and-cents cost. I’m talking about the balanced development of our children’s minds, including their psychology and emotional well-being.
There are two hemispheres to the human brain and, while I am no authority on them, I do know that we need both of them to be well-nourished through learning to produce well-balanced individuals. Speaking simplistically, the left side is the side of logic and the right side is the side of creativity. While the left side sees things concretely, the right side sees things abstractly. Obviously, if math and science numbers have been dropping, work needs to be done to help that side of the brain. However, that doesn’t mean you should take away everything that enriches the right side of the brain by eliminating art, music, and even cursive writing. Also, when you take away time to “play”, to relax from mental stress and strain, you only cause things to become increasingly harder to learn. There has to be a balance!
Many childhood diseases have been on the rise for decades. Yes, I’m aware that so has the pollution in our environment, but without a balance within oneself, it becomes almost impossible for the person and their body to deal with every day life. This is what concerns me. Slowly, inch by inch, we are turning the younger generations into sickly, stressed, miserable children. It just doesn’t seem like children get go be children anymore. To know the joy of simple things, like playing tag or swinging from “monkey bars”; learning to finger-paint or sculpt with clay; to learn to sing songs or play an instrument just for the fun of it; and to do so with no long list of “have-tos” hanging over their heads, that’s what helps to balance all the logical stuff like math, science, English and more.
I was fortunate. I did well in math and science, but I also had the chance to take art, home economics, physical education, and foreign languages. Both sides of my brain got used and well-nourished through my public education. I guess that’s why it concerns me so much that we appear to be becoming a society that believes only the left side of the brain is worth educating.
I know some of you may tell me I have it all wrong. Maybe I do, but then there’s that “feeling” and sometimes you just can’t ignore it. Technology can be a good thing and learning it at an early age would seem….logical, but there has to be a time when you turn the tech off or at least get up and walk away from it. In that time, creativity without technology should be just as important and be given just as much emphasis. Joy can be found in many forms. Shouldn’t we offer the children the opportunity to experience as many of them as possible? After all, if the children are our future, then they should have ALL the tools to create a beautiful world.