Myths About What Makes Good Education
Myths: Good in Stories, Bad in Education
One of the biggest problems is that we often push for more of the same instead of exploring why our current policies don't work. Therefore, we must dispel a few myths that often clog up any discussions on education policy.
Myth Number One: More Homework is Better
While it's true that some homework can help seal knowledge into young minds, too much actually destroys our ability to focus. Not only that, but when kids aren't interested in the topic they're studying, they are less likely to remember it, regardless of how much they are forced to study. In order to keep kids from getting overwhelmed, new approaches seek to space out homework and alter the way the information is presented. In some cases, this can double the amount of information a student remembers. The secret is quality homework over quantity.
Myth Number Two: We Need More Class Time
More of a bad thing does not magically make a good thing. In fact, pushing for more school time is, in some ways, a very lazy approach. Instead of addressing the fundamental flaws of the system, we insist that more is better, even though quality education is much more important than quantity.
Myth Number Three: China's Education System Works, Therefore We Should Copy China
Unfortunately, what makes this myth so prevalent is that there is some truth to it: China, and specifically Shanghai, does dominate the international education rankings. However, as previously mentioned, quality is more important than quantity. Not only that, but China's system, while ahead in rote memorization and calculation, falls flat when it comes to innovation. Of course the worst part is China's censorship policies that sanitize anything that might be considered counter-revolutionary. A recent report from Freedom House, Radio Free Asia, and Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty had this to say on the subject: "In China, regime-authorized textbooks stress the theme that calls for expanded human rights are an instrument for the West to "keep China down." History courses ignore or explain away the dark chapters in the country's history during the Communist era, including the great leap forward, the cultural revolution, or the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989." Lest we forget, China is still an authoritarian police state and can essentially force students to learn. That style probably wouldn't work in the U.S. Our kids go through a big enough rebellious phase already.
Myth Number Four: Get Rid of Extra Curricular Activities, Focus On "Real Education"
In some ways, this myth is the most absurd. Kids don't have the attention span adults do, and breaking up the routine helps keep them focused. Plus, regular exercise like P.E. and recess help stimulate the mind and the body. Activities like debate teach good critical thinking skills and improve test scores. Finally, creative and artistic activities like art and drama improve seemingly unrelated skills.
Myth Number Five: More Money Is The Solution
While it is true that the education system is in dire need of funding, simply throwing money at it is the wrong approach. A research paper from the Sutherland Institute suggests that there isn't any strong correlation between per-student expenditures and graduation rates, which demonstrates that putting money in a bad system is not the solution. Another paper from the Shanker Institute does show a slight correlation between spending and test scores, but school finance reform is just as, if not more important than money. To quote part of the paper, "The available evidence suggests that appropriate combinations of more adequate funding with more accountability for its use may be most promising."
Myth Number Six: Students Are Lazy And Don't Want To Learn
This is a classic case of "passing the buck," and a very shameful one at that. It's much easier to blame the children, who, by the way, were raised by the very generation blaming them of being lazy, than to take responsibility for failing to take the time to be involved in their education. Studies clearly demonstrate that simple things like reading to your kids foster a lifelong interest in learning. While parents do spend just as much time with their children today as in the 1960's, they often have other things on their mind and are much busier than their counterparts 40 or 50 years ago.
Setting aside the parents for a moment, schools are just as responsible for getting kids interested in learning. It might be hard to remember now, but sitting at a desk, listening to someone talk about something you're not really interested in, while your hormones are pushing you to gawk at the girl sitting next to you, all of this without getting paid a dime is difficult at best. For more reading on how schools are failing to get kids interested in learning, see Failure to Engage: Why Kids Aren't Interested In Learning.