originally blogged on Wed. 23 April.
In his editorial today, Poor Elijah quoted a colleague from Kentucky who recently published a piece in Education Week discussing the unfortunate fact that schools seem to be only focusing on testing and scores. Apparently the Kentuckian suggests that more focus should be given to inspiring students and creating a passion for learning. As I was reading, I failed to understand why Elijah was quoting the Kentuckian. Elijah's columns usually focus on something in the education system that Elijah thinks is absurd, not working, or just plain wrong. I failed to see the Kentuckian's assertions as any of those. Elijah, though, was seemingly deeply offended at the suggestion that schools and teachers should be instilling a passion for learning in students. Furthermore, he scoffed at the idea that schools should be producing students "who desire to become responsible citizens." Oh, yes, later in his article Elijah claims to be in favor of teaching responsible citizenship. But, his idea of teaching responsible citizenship is to repeatedly remind students that in only a few decades they will be in charge of the country and will be responsible for all the decision making, and won't have anybody to ask for help.
Perhaps it is teaching methods such as Elijah's that has left the United States with an uninformed populace. If you read the newspapers, or watch television news reports, it is obvious that people are not interested in making informed decisions. All they are interested in is what one important leader supposedly says about another important leader. They don't have a passion for researching the truth. They don't have a passion for analyzing and contemplating the information they have. They don't have a passion for making their own decisions. In other words, they don't have a passion for learning. But, obviously Elijah thinks this is just fine, because a passion for learning is unimportant fluff valued only by those who have a "persistent philosophical distaste for....the 'end product'." Elijah must think he is qualified to teach students every single fact, quote, and theory a student will need through the rest of his/her life. Otherwise, he would value the passion for learning that compels a person to continue learning and reading and researching and thinking throughout the rest of his/her life.
This is perhaps the saddest part of Elijah's article. Elijah seems to truly believe that a passion for learning is not a part of life. He suggests we "take a look up and down the supermarket aisle, and...realize that the thirst for knowledge doesn't rule most people's lives." He suggests that just because an English teacher won't fall in love with Trigonometry (and why not, I ask?), then people shouldn't bother learning anything about a subject about which they are not passionate. He follows up this statement by saying, "learning for most of us isn't a passion." Elijah, are you suggesting that just because the majority of people in the United States today aren't passionate about learning then we shouldn't try to foster that passion in the upcoming generations? Elijah, do you truly believe that the status quo is acceptable?
I disagree, Elijah. Not that learning is not a passion for most people. Sadly, I agree with that statement. Just spend a few moments listening to any average conversation in a grocery store, or in an online forum. It quickly becomes obvious that the average person is not passionate about continuing his/her education. What I disagree about is that this disinterest in learning and education is a good thing. It's not. It is a terribly horrifying thing. I consider it the biggest reason that the United States does not truly support our education system.
Fomenting in the current and upcoming generations the idea that learning is boring and unnecessary once you have finished your formal schooling is a dangerous thing. It certainly will not create a responsible citizenry. Oh, but that's right, Elijah scoffed at the idea of creating a responsible citizen through the teaching received in school. Sounds like Elijah has things all figured out for himself.