I spent over 50 years as a teacher which means I have a pretty good view of the historical changes, or lack of them, in this field. Towards the end of my career I ended up tutoring at a University which gave me a more extensive view. I had started to realise that one thing we do really well in schools is to knock imagination out of children. This was confirmed one day when I asked a group of undergraduates in a sociology class to imagine that they were Health Ministers and I wanted to know what major changes they would want to make. My request was met with gasps of horror- how could I ask them to do such a thing? Their lives were built on facts to be regurgitated in the next exam! I suspect that this attitude is a result of mass education and an overfull curriculum in our schools. I seem to remember a researcher into children’s ‘modern’ illnesses, such as hyperactivity, also blaming our mass education system for that problem too.
In Australia there is a move to rewrite the school curriculum yet again! The signs at this stage are that it will be more of the same, yet again.
We are beginning to recognise the need for talented teachers (the low pay doesn’t make it an attractive job!) but I feel that there is an even greater need for talented school principals who create an atmosphere in which such teachers can operate and flourish. Unless we have such an environment we stilt children’s growth and stifle free thinking which is vital in the modern competitive world.
I wrote a letter to this effect for our local newspaper and it occurred to me that as I am no longer an employee I can tell it as I see it. It is a point of view unlikely to be supported or repeated by those still in the system. There would be negative repercussions if they expressed such views. Not only do we stifle innovative thought amongst our students but serving staff are equally stifled. To me this is a reflection on the qualifications and talent of those in the top jobs.
Yet these people at the top who do the stifling will be contributing to harnessing, sorry educating, the next generation through yet another curriculum which meets neither their needs nor the country’s needs. Will we never learn?