The other day I was talking with a friend who isn’t a teacher and our conversation led me to have the following thoughts:
What we do in what has become today’s traditional educational system where students are expected to sit in rows and attend classes all day and then go home to do homework doesn’t work for most students. It is unnatural for someone to sit for that long at a time, let alone a younger person. In general, people do tend to learn better by being actively involved in their learning.
I reminded my friend that the educational system hasn’t always been this way. Anyway, here is what I think has happened:
At some point, America primarily was a land of farms. Children would wake up early to help their family on the farm, learning valuable life lessons along the way as well. Then, later in the day, the children would go to a one-room schoolhouse for a lesson on reading and writing. However, it definitely wouldn’t be nearly as long as today’s school day.
Eventually, as farms went away, and fewer and fewer children worked at home with their families, the children were sent off to the one-room schoolhouse for longer and longer periods. However, the instructional methods never changed to account for this shift in the amount of time spent in school.
Today we have realized that it is unnatural for someone to learn by sitting at school all day and that students learn more by being actively involved in their learning, but we still are constrained by the format of the one-room schoolhouse. I think that today’s teachers are doing the best that they can with the resources that they have. However, there is only so much they can do to engage students during an entire eight-hour school day when many of the skills that today’s teachers are required to teach are the ones that used to be taught to children by their families on the farms before they went to school each morning.
Of course, I am aware that there are other factors involved in the changes in the educational system over the years. Still, I do think that this is the root cause of why today’s traditional educational system became one where students are expected to sit in rows and attend classes all day.
And, of course, there are schools working to change this by going to four-day school weeks or by going to shorter school days. However, I’m not convinced these are trends that will catch on soon enough.