I'm sicker 'n a dog right now, as my grandma would say, so the book review I've been working on for you will have to wait until I recover from the virus that's got me down. (Yup, this time it's not the kiddo -- it's the side effects of being a teacher. I was sick all last winter, too -- one cold after another.)
So, to make it up to you, I'm posting a link to this intriguing article on education in America. If you know me, you know that I am in favor of homeschooling -- that all my time teaching in institutionalized schools has only served to solidify my distrust of them. As the writer of this article says, schoolwork is largely busywork. Learning seems to happen very little.
However, at least in the Catholic schools where I've taught, this isn't part of any conspiracy. It's simply in response to the fact that it is easier to teach large groups with busywork. Furthermore, it is easier to grade them with tests. And students raised on lots of tests learn for the test, study to the test, and forget after the test. Any time I would try to make them think, to analyze, to wonder, inevitably they would smack me back to reality with a raised hand. "Will this be on the test?" And if you answer "no," they tune out instantly.
Luckily the younger kids are not yet so conditioned, and I try to avoid doing so. Yet it is almost impossible to teach them without streamlining them more than is good for each of them individually. It's a case of "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few," so I have to hurry one up who is still struggling to understand and force one to wait who has grasped the material days ago, even though I long to teach to each of them.
I can't testify to what this author says about public schools, never having taught at one, and having little memory of anything I learned while going to one. In my experience, public school teachers are enthusiastic and try extremely hard to break the pattern of busywork and failure that cripples their students. However, there seems to be something intrinsic in the structure of schools, even in the nature of any school so long as it is institutionalized, that makes this pattern almost impossible to break. Schools seem to encourage mediocrity, blind and thoughtless acceptance instead of critical thinking, and learning that only lasts until the exam.
So, read the article and tell me what you think. I know it does seem a little extreme in parts. But whether there is an agenda behind the failure of schools or not, the failure is just as evident, and the author's solution is just as necessary.