Guest Writer: Bernie Keller
As the demands to “change” education to “fit the 21st century” paradigm swirl about us, I want to ask you to do something for me. I want you to close your eyes and think back to your third grade class.
For all of the “new”, innovative “21st century education” ideas being tossed around, what I see being proposed doesn’t seem to be adding anything to the mix. A lot of money is being spent, a lot of books and materials are being created, but I’m having a hard time seeing any benefit.
When I think back to my third grade class, I remember sitting in rows and quietly walking in pairs. I remember learning the times table. I remember being given, (and doing) homework in every subject, reading books in class and carrying them back and forth from school to home, and I remember learning to spell words correctly.
I have two degrees and 40 years of teaching experience on my ledger and I live in the 21st century. Since people frequently engage my services to edit their work, teach writing and speaking techniques, prepare for the S.A.T., etc., I’d have to argue that many, if not most of the non-21st century techniques and skills I possess work very well, in the 21st century!
My 1960’s -70’s education taught me discipline. It taught me responsibility. I was given a book for each subject and it was my responsibility to cover it, bring it to school and home, to come prepared with paper, a pen and a pencil, prepared to take notes and ask questions when I didn’t understand.
It taught me that I didn’t have to like you to learn from you, and that sometimes there actually are people who know more than you.
It taught me that for all of the changes the “experts” purport are so vital and necessary if we are to succeed in the 21st century, in this new millennium, what was always true, will still be true, and what has always worked, will still work.
In the end, English is still English. A verb is still a verb, an action word, whether you write it on a chalkboard or a Smart Board, whether you read it in a book or on a Kindle.
Smart Board, no board, chalkboard, computer-learning program, in the end, math is still math. Three squared is still nine, and you still succeed at math through learning the processes and the theories, and through replication and application.
It taught me that any successful education system, school, classroom or teacher would provide students with:
Structure- an organized, method to accomplish a goal.
Self discipline- order, control, training and instruction.
Knowledge – information students will need in order to have at least a basic foundation to negotiate the issues/challenges life will present to them.
Replication/Application- the opportunity to process and sharpen the skills they have learned.
When you look at things in this way, it is very hard to understand why there is so much chaos clouding the education issue. The reality is actually so simple that a third grader can figure it out.