Thursday, July 23, 2020

Learning Matters

As humans, we are natural learners.

To survive, we must learn, and so we move in that direction no matter what we do.

As I listen to people discuss school plans during a pandemic, they fret about learning. Yet, their definition of what learning is, and how it is measured is not inclusive, accurate, or helpful. 

Too many believe that learning is what happens when students are seated at desks in a classroom listening to a teacher, but as most educators know, that's probably where the least learning takes place.

True, rich, deep learning includes these ingredients:
  • A deep desire to know
  • A quest to find out
  • Mentors, research
  • Approximations, making, exploring, practice, reflection, revision, review, presentation
  • Questions--lots of questions
In the United States today, too many people are confused about the difference between child care and education. They don't realize that warehousing children in uncomfortable places does not inspire learning, but instead restricts the free flow of ideas and exploration that leads to rich, rewarding learning.

Yes, we have to take care of the nation's children--they can't be left alone without oversight, but good care and good education require elements that inspire and enrich, not elements that restrict and limit. 

The wealthiest Americans won't put their children in tight rows, facing front with masks on. They won't restrict their children to military style seating arrangements and guarded outdoor activities. Instead, those with the means, will ensure that their children continue to have rich, playful, engaging childhoods--they'll make sure that happens using their means to afford those kinds of settings. Their children will thrive.

Why can't the United States think and act like the families with the greatest means--why can't the United States ensure that every child has a playful, engaging, rich childhood whether there is a pandemic or not. 

The solution is simple. Provide every family in the United States with a substantial childcare stipend so they can ensure that their children have optimal care, and then support teachers and school systems so that they can use their knowledge about what it means to learn and live well to inspire awesome learning activities remotely while the pandemic surges. This trying time in the United States can be an enriching time too as we meet the potential to uplift families and education in the ways we can, ways that inspire and enrich children's lives rather than limit and imprison them.