Naturally, it wasn’t until I became a parent that I began questioning the normal societal rituals that our children go through. School has become one such ritual that I am increasingly scared by. The United States, ever competitive, must-always-be-best, has created an environment that in order to get ahead, you have to do more. It sounds logical, right? For instance, in my girl’s old school, the county school board mandated an extra hour of school every day (for all elementary grades, even kindergarten) to try to rectify the bad test scores of the previous year. Thankfully, I’ve been able to move her to another school that not only doesn’t have this extra hour of school work, but it has much more play time (recess every single day and PE three times a week). The difference in my child has been staggering. She is so much happier when she comes home from school, less stressed, less anxious about the next day. Think about that – I’m referring to a five-year old being less stressed about school.
I don’t discard the vital importance of an education. It’s how we educate that worries the crap out of me. More, more, more! More homework, more hours, more studying. This all comes at a cost and the cost is our children don’t get to be children anymore. Their own interests are tossed aside, natural never-ending energy isn’t being expended, and nonstop testing rules the classroom.
The first quarter of the 20th century saw huge leaps forward in education and productivity, but as the decades have marched on, our educators have forgotten these lessons. Superwoman was already here to breathe new life into education, beginning in 1907. Thankfully, Montessori is growing rapidly throughout the United States. Click here for a more information on it. It focuses on the growth and individual interest of a child, addressing individual needs, autonomy and responsibility. None of these things exist in the current public school system.
And what about play time? Take a look at Finland’s school system, which is #3 in the world, by the way. They didn’t pile on the work, the lessened it. After every single class, children get to go outside and play for 15 minutes. After every.single.class.
Not only do Finnish educational authorities provide students with far more recess than their U.S. counterparts—75 minutes a day in Finnish elementary schools versus an average of 27 minutes in the U.S.—but they also mandate lots of arts and crafts, more learning by doing, rigorous standards for teacher certification, higher teacher pay, and attractive working conditions.
The more, more, more, attitude of school, hunker down those kids, burying them in books is suffocating our children. Clearly, our current educators do not see a parallel between our childrens’ education and the exploitation of the middle class in the early 20th century either. Previously, average factory workers were expected to work six and seven days a week to maximize output in factories. On May 1st, 1926, Henry Ford mandated that his workers could only work 40-hours per week, five days a week, as well as almost doubling the hourly wage to $5 per hour. Yes, you can thank Henry Ford for pioneering the five-day work week, because it became, and still is, the industry standard.
The news shocked many in the industry but turned out to be a stroke of brilliance, immediately boosting productivity along the assembly line and building a sense of company loyalty and pride among Ford’s workers.
So why can’t our educators at the top see that less is more? Less nose-to-the-grind and more play for children. Happier children have an open mind to learn. Strung out, overworked children do not. Homeschooling is on the rise, private schools and public charters are exponentially gaining popularity. People will do anything to avoid going into public school. And for all of us that say “well, I went through public school and it was fine,” the public school you and I knew is not what it is today. It is very, very, very different.
Pay teachers what they deserve. Every teacher I know works a minimum 10-12 hours every single day, throws in extra time on the weekend and even then, might not be able to catch up on paperwork. Considerably raise the salary of our teachers and not only will productivity rise, the desire to become a teacher will increase too. Flood the school market with teachers clamouring to teach and you’ll raise the overall quality of the teacher in the classroom. Raise that quality of teacher, and you’ll start to generate a better education system. When both the teacher and student are respected, are able to be whom they were meant to be, whom they want to be, the entire school system will win.