Memorization as a system of education does not teach children to think. Providing children with the power of choice in their education can make a world of difference to motivation and judgement.
Too often, in education, the student is relegated to the status of a data-processing machine. Day after day he sits at his desk taking in more and more information from the pages of his textbook, or from his teacher’s tongue. He is expected to memorize formulas, historic dates and happenings, etc., etc. Under such a system, the quicker the student absorbs the information and the more accurately he repeats it back on a test paper, the better grade he gets, and the more educated he is supposed to be.
While we may end up with a student who can recite rhyme and verse from his literature books, recite the name of every General who ever fought a war, recite his multiplication tables flawlessly, you can hardly call him educated if he stares at you blankly when you ask him why he has learned all this information. The truth of the matter is, if the student cannot evaluate the information he learns, cannot think with it, cannot use it in some aspect of his life, it really doesn’t do him much good.
The trick then is to give the child power of choice over the information we are trying to teach him. He should be free to reject it if he sees no worth in it, he should be allowed to set it aside if he has nothing with which to align it, or he should be encouraged to embrace it if he sees its purpose and does have a use for it.
A student may want to study computers, for example, so he can design his own web page. He may be interested in learning perspective and geometry so he can draw more realistic illustrations. Or he may delve into the stories of history to extract answers on how to adjust the environment to fit his needs.
When a student finds reasons to study that make sense to him, he is in the driver’s seat, able to steer his own education. If he wishes to know something verbatim, because it is of value to him, he will learn it quite easily. If he investigates those phenomena he finds most curious, or those that strike his fancy, study will tend to be synonymous with pleasure.
From the writings of educator and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard comes the following sage advice, “Stress the right of the individual to select only what he desires to know, to use any knowledge as he wishes, that he himself owns what he has learned.”
Indeed, the greatest educational experience a student can receive is to be given control over his own studies. Such an approach has no use for mountains of facts or mindless memorization for it ascends into the realm of understanding.
It is that road traveled by such individuals as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Einstein, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other geniuses who have brought inspiration to mankind. But most importantly, a self-determined education invites the student to walk the only path capable of giving him the means of reaching his full potential.
Applied Scholastics Academy San Diego, is a tutoring center and private school in the La Jolla area. For more information, call 1-858-454-1972 or go to www.LearnSanDiego.org.
Carlynn McCormick, freelance writer and textbook author, is an educational consultant for Applied Scholastics Academy San Diego.