When casting about for an appropriate subject for this article a chance remark of one of my students came to my mind and set me on the plan to this article. The incident was that of a student being corrected for some use of incorrect grammar outside of the classroom. The student remarked that it was not a grammar class and therefore reasoned that the use of correct grammar was not of much importance. This is not a typical remark and my idea is not to write a long list of woes about not applying our learning, rather this set me to thinking about our education and its use in our daily life, not only in the present time but also in some future time.
The purpose of this article is the presentation of a proposition to the readers as young people as to the future use of their education. You will be the parents of the future, concerned with the education of your children, concerned with its effectiveness and their reception and use of what they learn.
The trend in modern education is away from the learning of the content of the subject matter and a mastery of that content for the sake of a reservoir of knowledge. Instead the modern educator is more concerned with the practical problem of a so-called preparation for life by many and varied experiences of the educated, to prepare the student for life experiences. The idea is not to aid the process of learning by means of interesting and practical experiences but instead, that out of these experiences education should arise. As an example, to teach the ideas and principles of democratic government the practice is for the pupil to participate in some form of practical experience by governing their own plans as a class through the means of democratic process in order to determine what they shall do. The role of the teacher is to advise them and guide them in the experience so that an acceptable end result is achieved. Over against this idea of learning is the idea that the subject has an objective content that can be taught from an authoritarian point of view, that a mastery of the subject involves a thorough knowledge of the content to reach this goal of learning. Practical experience may be used to gain the mastery but never take the place of the content.
This may be an over simplification of the two ideas on education and not totally applicable in the whole range of the curriculum. It is offered as a general picture of two ideas of education. The point is if we are to choose between two ideas of this nature there is no question but that we agree with the latter. Certainly we would all agree that there must be an objective content to education, a content to be mastered and used by the student in real situations.
The object of this short discussion of education is this, to establish the principle that in educating a child there is material that is taught and that that material is meaningful and necessary. Otherwise there is no object in teaching it. It really is a waste of time and effort if such is not the case.
Now my proposition that I mentioned earlier in the article depends on this idea of education. Since there is this content to education that is important to the goal of the educated person it also follows that it is important that this content be retained by the learner and used by him throughout his life. If this were not the case there would be no reason to spend much time and energy to make sure that our children receive this education. If it is something that is to be forgotten or not used at all then all our time, energy, and money are ill spend. The question is then how are we going to keep this content in full use and in our consciousness.
I don’t have in mind such subjects as arithmetic, grammar, penmanship, spelling, and such subjects that once are truly mastered are not lost because they become a part of our daily thinking and working. What I have in mind are such subjects as history, geography, civics, and literature, which have a great deal of content that is forgotten and not used much in our daily lives. This is the proposition I had in mind, in order to keep this vast store of knowledge and information fresh in your minds in these fields of learning just mentioned, a plan should be followed to accomplish this end. When your children go through the process of learning these things in their school life you too should follow along with them keeping up with the material they are studying to refresh your memory or to keep it fresh.
This may seem life quite a task that I am proposing buy you must remember the principle that was set forth earlier in this article, that there is a content to the subject that is necessary and important to the learner. If it is important to the learner it is also just as important to the one that has learned years ago. Aside from that there are other important factors that will give added value to the proposition. Think of how you can help your children in their education by showing that what they are learning is important and you think so. Not that it is important in school, but afterwards is not so important anymore. Not to say anything of the fact that if you are conscious and aware of the geography, history, and literature you have learned it will aid you in your knowledge and awareness of present day history and news of the world you live in.
In this way it will also be possible for you to learn subjects that your children may be taking that you never had the opportunity to study because of some circumstances. Above all this plan will make what you have learned of greater usefulness to you because it is something that you are more aware of, aware to its usefulness not only in relation to it as a school subject but as something practical in daily life. The greatest of all benefits is that your children can receive help from you in these subjects, develop the right attitude to learning which is an important cornerstone in education. That’s the proposition, the rest is up to you.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No. 2 March 1959