Conformity

After watching a beautiful youtube video: RSA—Changing Education Paradigms, I realized how dangerous conformity really can be.  After spending a few months in Korea, and experiencing the gold standard of conformity in the world, I started wanting to scream on the subway just to disrupt the routine or wear my shoes inside and watch the reaction.  I have been shushed for talking on the subway, pushed for standing on the sidewalk, and stared at for being Caucasian in an Asian land.

Our school has been practicing for a holiday recital, and the most important part, as I was informed, is to have all the kids moving the same way, in the same dance.  Kindergarten shouldn’t be perfect; it should be cute, and entertaining.  In our recent speech contest, the Korean teachers were surprised that we American judges voted for a student as the best speech despite his having stumbled over a few words while having the best pronunciation, energy and diction.  Other, more robotic students, who had perfectly memorized their speeches, were favored by the Korean teachers.  The perfection quotient is heavy here.  I believe America likes non-conformity, but we may not know how to achieve it all the time.  The video showed me, and anyone who teaches in public education knows, that it is an outdated system of teaching for standardized tests.  We are not creating knowledge or confidence in students’ abilities, we are helping them memorize to forget later.

The video speaks of schools’ similarity to an assembly line; bells, separate classes, students divided by age, not ability.  Perhaps there is something to be said for teaching students about how to follow the line, because they will have to do that in many jobs.  So, any overhaul in education might prompt a change in the workplace too, but it feels doubtful.

I have been aware for some time, that the time in which I was born and currently live was a special time.  I know it sounds egotistical, but computers, cell phones, GPS, microwaves, and space travel among others have been made widely available during my 31 years.  We have been increasing intelligence exponentially, and the next 100 years will see amazing technological advances as well, and each successive generation will live in a new wildly exciting time.  However, if we don’t catch the majority of the population up to those fascinatingly brilliant souls who invent these things, it will look more like Idiocracy than the Jetsons.  Encourage creativity, divergent thinking, and musical ability, while at the same time helping students understand that sometimes, such as in Math and Science, there is only ONE answer, albeit with many ways to that answer.  The children are the future and the future is uncertain and the end is always near… (Thank you Whitney and Jim.)

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