Inadequate, Boring, Backward, Limited and Cruel Education

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My wife has been re-listening to The History of Rome podcast. This morning she told me a bit about what the Roman education system was like (yes, she's already up to episode 87). The basic idea: Require students to memorize stuff. Period.

"Once a kid got out of school, he was almost guaranteed to never want to learn anything ever again. It was that bad." As my wife described the joyless process of reading for the sake of reading--not to enjoy or learn or think--she shifted to one of her latest pet observations: Rome lacked creativity. They stole their culture and religion from the Greeks. And that makes sense if your students are only taught to regurgitate what they have been given to memorize.

The "obvious" step here would be to compare our current public educational model with this ancient classical approach to learning. But I don't think that would be wise.

First, I'm not convinced the public schools are that bad. I've heard from a few people that they never want to read a book again. At the same time, they often love stories. Overall, the kids I know are bright, inquisitive, and happy to learn stuff. The system has much improved from how it was in ancient Rome.

Second, while schools certainly "teach to the test"--so much so that teachers are saying "I quit" (another here)--the problems are larger than that. For example, the Common Core is failing to help keep publishers on task as exemplified in this video. "Literature & Writing" texts are directed at teaching kids emotional pleas for social issues not, you know, writing and literature.

Third, I'm more interested in focusing on the benefits of our approach. The more Brittany told me about Rome, the more ways I was encouraged to know we do it better. Example: Instead of forcing kids to memorize the sequence and names of the alphabet before seeing a single letter, we regularly focus on the sound a letter makes and emphasize that sound in words when playing with my youngest niece.

As homeschoolers, we can take what works and give our children a life-long love of learning. And if we can learn from the inadequate, boring, backward, and limited ideas about education from the past, so much the better.

Keep up the great work you are doing in raising up the next generation!

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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  1. Pingback: What Does a Love of Learning Look Like? | Sonlight Blog