“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think” — I came across this inspiring misquote, attributed to Albert Einstein.
It occurs to me how it is not possible to avoid training the mind. Simply by experiencing life the mind is trained, for better or for worse. The child’s mind, being far more impressionable than an adult’s, is profoundly “trained” by the social and physical environment. Adult habits modelled for the child, the culture of the home and the school and elsewhere, the child’s lifestyle in general all collectively form an integrated mental “training” that educate the child in values, attitudes, beliefs and ideas.
Part of that social environment is usually a school, and in your child’s case that means Kairos. The training of our students’ minds is a delicate, complex process — what a responsibility we share, adults of our children! The wise adage, “It takes a village to raise a child” (e.g. in Kiswahili, “Asiyefunzwa na mamae hufunzwa na ulimwengu.”) is relevant here. Together, in this village (and overlapping contexts in other areas of your children’s lives outside it), we are training minds, even when we are not aware of our actions or words.
This is eloquently conveyed in the Second Chapter of the book by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner (see http://kairosschool.co.za/more-2-2/). The authors interrogate the implicit messages of a typical set of school test questions: passive uncritical acceptance is expected; thinking for yourself is useless; the voice of authority is always right; there is always only one right answer to any question, etc. And, in relation to the quote about facts, “Recall is the highest form of intellectual achievement, and the collection of unrelated ‘facts’ is the goal of education.”
Hence the importance of the inquiry-based culture of our school, epitomised perhaps by our Learning in Depth initiative (officially for the Grades 4-7s at present). LiD presents a contrast to the general trend globally in which school systems attempt to oblige children to learn an enormous amount of facts without experiencing depth in ANY discipline whatsoever. The intention of LiD is for each child to discover what academic depth looks like, and feels like, by becoming an expert in one particular topic.
Upon meeting Kieran Egan, the founder of LID, last year, Maya and I realised we should be practising it differently. We are therefore relaunching LiD. Topics will no longer be chosen by us teachers (they have been ceremoniously selected for the children via a destiny-imbued magic basket!), and their efforts into the topic will indeed be voluntary. Through the example of the more eager children modelling the joy of discovery, we expect the enthusiasm to be infectious. For more info, please see watch the Youtube Kieran Egan on Learning in Depth (±4 min), and Egan’s webpage at www.educ.sfu.ca/kegan/. Please don’t pressurise your child to develop this expertise: remain curious and supportive.
In the service of helping our children experience the antithesis of Thomas Gradgrind’s curriculum (from Dickens’s Hard Times): “Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life.”