CH1 L56: Education – part VI (Run, Forrest, Run)

  1. It’s been a while since I updated the blog mainly because I was writing a book which at first I thought it could finish in a year, but I realized that it’d take longer if I wanted to stand by it; besides, I was doing a course that already finished.
  2. Anyway, we’re studying education from different aspects, trying to come up with a clear definition. So far, we’ve discussed why we need education [1], how modern education systems have developed, and the demand for them skyrocketed [2], the problems with teaching concepts [3], and whether or not education aims to enlighten students [4].
  3. In the 55th post, I used running as a metaphor for academic competition [5]. We discussed that any competition creates a hierarchy. It’s a pragmatic way to define hierarchies as outcomes of races. You wouldn’t know your strengths or weaknesses if you didn’t try to put your potentials into practice [6]. I deliberately use this argument to say that there were no initial intentions to create hierarchies. They’re the very natural and symbiotic outcomes of competitions that are caused by limited energy. [7]
  4. However, our definition of a passing criterion for the running race can determine winners or losers, consequently its level of difficulty [8]. And in the context of education, distance is the amount of knowledge and skills kids are supposed to develop, and time is, as always, time. So, a critical question could be how do we decide kids must learn a certain amount of content in a unit of time that defines their learning speed?
  5. The concept of learning speed helps us visualize the learning process. A few kids run like Usain Bolt, some need to work harder to catch up, and there are even some students who need crutches or some aid to move forward.
  6. It’s a universal fact that we all have different abilities, namely speed, so in a fixed curriculum, some students can meet the expectations and others can’t. A practical solution would be to change the rules in three ways: To shorten the distance, to extend the time, or to boost their speed with more support or aids.
  7. To shorten the distance can’t be used, especially in cumulative subjects like mathematics. If we expect a student to master half of the content, they’ll have problems next year with understanding the higher-level concepts. This problem can probably be solved when there are different paths. For example, you choose the level of mathematics you can cope with when you go to high school, but you’ll still have to finish a certain amount of content to graduate.
  8. In some cases, wrong definitions, beliefs, or expectations can cause problems. For example, some parents force their kids to go for a specific major, ignoring their poor kids’ interests or capabilities. So, some parents might not agree that, say, their kid would take lower-level math. In other words, you can’t shorten the distance.
  9. To increase the time has its limits these days. Weak students who failed their final exam used to repeat the year that meant extending their time. This solution had its emotional kickbacks. The flunked kids would be a target of ridicule, and their confidence would shatter, and most likely, they’d fail again. Those students would leave the academic path in different grades what these days seem to be impossible for many students. Even if you fail, the show must go on.
  10. Even if we could remove the emotional pressure and let some kids repeat a year, economically parents wouldn’t agree, because first of all, they need to pay for one more year, secondly, the concept of competition is so built-in their system that they think that their child would fall behind their peers in the race.
  11. So, to increase the time these days means the extra time within an academic year to catch up, and if some kids still can’t fix their problems, they take them to the next year that grows even worse.
  12. In the next post, we talk about the third solution: the extra support; and see whether it works or not.

Footnotes:

[1] Link to the 54th post

[2] Link to the 55th post

[3] Link to the 52nd post

[4] Link to the 54th post

[5] Link to the 55th post

[6] Though we can guess how well we can handle a challenge, we can’t be sure until we give it a shot. For example, you wouldn’t know if you could lift a 20kg weight, even you didn’t have any similar experiences. As soon as you lifted it, your brain would calculate its difficulty and extrapolate that you could lift, say, a 30 kg weight. It’s just a guess, and you can’t be sure unless you’d try it.

In the 49th post [link], I used Roland Barthes’ metaphor for self-awareness “But I never looked like that!’ – How do you know? What is the ‘you’ you might or might not look like? Where do you find it – by which morphological or expressive calibration? Where is your authentic body? You are the only one who can never see yourself except as an image; you never see your eyes unless they are dulled by the gaze they rest upon the mirror or the lens (I am interested in seeing my eyes only when they look at you): even and especially for your own body, you are condemned to the repertoire of its images.” We need to get feedback from others or our experiences to know ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses.

[7] The concept of limited energy is the underlying concept that governs our behavior and shaped who we are. In a world with an infinite amount of energy, competition would be meaningless.

[8] My biggest question is: How do the curricula designers define the average student? It could be a rhetorical question because I think they’d designed it to exclude, rather than to include students. For example, you need some engineers, and there are some expectations that they need to meet. So, you design a system to train those who can reach the end. In other words, the exclusion is part of the nature of the education system despite that we think that every kid has the right to learn that I do believe in it. Though we aim not to leave any child behind, they’ll be sifted by universities and ultimately the market.

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