Jeff Utecht says that in America (as opposed to China):
[W]e focus on getting students to think different, we encourage them to think, to analyze, to question their findings. We teach them to learn on their own.
Do we, Jeff? Or do we just benefit from our country’s overall openness compared to China? ‘Cause I gotta tell you, I don’t see a lot of explicit instruction here in American schools regarding how to learn on your own, at least not using present-day information and communication technologies (which, of course, are what people need to master to be effective learners in this century). And I don’t see a lot of encouragement of students to really think, to critically dissect and analyze information that’s meaningful and important (as opposed to better regurgitating factual-procedural knowledge or doing what we say more often). And I see few opportunities for children to engage in discovery learning opportunities where they might actually have findings that are interesting and worth questioning (as opposed to the controlled and often contrived ‘experiments’ that accompany publishers’ science curricula).
I’m fairly certain that Postman & Weingartner’s quote from Teaching as a Subversive Activity is as applicable now as it was in 1969:
What students do in the classroom is what they learn (as Dewey would say) . . . Now, what is it that students do in the classroom? Well, mostly, they sit and listen to the teacher. . . . Mostly, they are required to remember. . . . It is practically unheard of for students to play any role in determining what problems are worth studying or what procedures of inquiry ought to be used. . . . Here is the point: Once you have learned how to ask questions – relevant and appropriate and substantial questions – you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know . . . [However,] what students are restricted to (solely and even vengefully) is the process of memorizing . . . somebody else’s answers to somebody else’s questions. It is staggering to consider the implications of this fact. The most important intellectual ability man has yet developed – the art and science of asking questions – is not taught in school! Moreover, it is not “taught” in the most devastating way possible: by arranging the environment so that significant question asking is not valued. It is doubtful if you can think of many schools that include question-asking, or methods of inquiry, as part of their curriculum.
I agree with the general theme of your post, Jeff, but so far I disagree with you on this issue. I think that whatever advantages America may enjoy over China regarding critical thinking, creativity, innovation, and the like might be occurring despite our schools, not because of them.
Thoughts, anyone else?