“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein.
I recall reading this quote towards the end of my first year of university. It had been an arduous year. Getting used to the work load of college assignments and coping with the long lectures. Battling with my conscience as to why it was difficult to understand certain concepts in courses or why my brain would inevitably switch off as soon as I knew the instructor was going to teach the lesson from reading off a giant text book.
The ordeal I experienced affects many students today.
The method of standardized education is becoming irrelevant daily and it is more than evident that a student has felt like a ‘fish’ probably once or more times in their life.
We are still practicing the ways of the dark ages whereby the results of standardized tests determine one’s capacity of knowledge.
Is there something really learned at the end of the day? Or has the student studied just enough to memorize information for a test and pray for their dear life they pass it and never have to encounter this sort of thing in life again?
These age-old methods, designed at first to crush original thought and to essentially churn out serfs who would obey authority, is destroying the ability for students to think creatively; many in the education system don’t know how severe this damage is and how it affects students in the long term.
According to the Huffington Post blogger, Eric Sheninger said: “The current education movement is laden with “if-then” rewards and a “carrots and sticks” approach to motivation. If students score well on standardized tests, they move on to the next grade level or graduate while their teachers receive favorable marks on evaluations. These are forms of extrinsic motivation and will work in short term, but performance will not be sustainable as it will be with those motivated intrinsically.”
Sheninger argues students are not motivated by standardized tests, as they find no true meaning and value in them. A focus on standardization narrows the curriculum and creates a teaching culture where creativity, exploration, and critical thinking are scarce or non-existent.
It creates a culture that students don’t want to be a part of and one that can only be sustained with the use of “if-then” rewards or carrots and sticks. This method worked well for the 20th century but do we want to destroy inventiveness by repeating this style of teaching?
I’m not saying this doesn’t work for everyone. We all have different ways of learning which may include understanding a topic with ease and enjoying the structure of a standardized test.
However, it is evident that everyone else has different learning styles such as: visual, auditory, read-write and kinesthetic learning styles.
What would happen if the educational system addressed these ways of learning and incorporated each one into different institutions? Would we still be the unskilled fish for not knowing how to climb a tree or the competent one flourishing in a pond where its swimming skills are best showcased?