Another TED talk link.
My set response to people who claim to be terrible at maths is to point out that different people learn in very different ways and it may well be that given a teaching style more appropriate to them they would have 'got' maths, or physics or whatever subject they failed to enjoy.
I know that the subjects that failed to click with me (or vice versa) didn't click simply because I never understood the reason the subject was important and the dry facts as they were presented never stuck with me. These were generally the subjects where knowledge over understanding was needed to excel in the exams, history being the prime example. These were the subjects that I had trouble visualising, the sciences I could always visualise with relative ease.
Though it would be easy to claim that it was spoon feeding, the things that did stick with me from history were generally those lessons presented simply through watching movies (strangely, that and a lesson on the satirical works of William Hogarth). Anyway, since the very dry lessons on the taxes of the 1500s and how to make a piece of paper look old I have become more interested in the subject and have read a little more than I had back then. I still find historical dates (unconnected to physics) stick for only a short time but I'm slowly building more of a structured understanding of how we've arrived at where we are today.
Anyway, I'm talking tangentially. I really want to talk about the fact that although we have an idea that it's important for all school kids to get a basic grounding in a range of 'important' subjects and that idea seems natural and wholesome, a video from the TED talks gives an interesting counter to this statement. Sir Ken Robinson is also a truly great storyteller in my opinion.
I have to admit that when I started watching this movie the scientist in me with the reactionary opinion that everyone can be good at maths and science if it's explained in the right way jumped to the forefront. By the end I realised that there's a lot more to the question than such a simple response.
I was really motivated to write about this subject because I found myself repeating the anecdote from this video about the 'troublesome child' to several people whose eyes lit up at this powerful tale of the right way and the wrong way to deal with someone who doesn't want to concentrate on the classical subjects at school. A perfect example of how one's gut reaction can be tragically wrong.
Anyway, the core of the argument is that we channel kids through a very narrow pathway of learning which probably sees a huge number of children excluded simply because they learn in different ways. We don't all find the same things natural to pick up and if we want to open the true creative capacities of the young then we need to rethink education in a big way.
The British Government seem to excel in rethinking education by changing the syllabus and exam system year on year. Sadly all they manage by doing this is to create chaos and devalue true learning over getting as many heads to university as possible.
I believe that the teaching of many subjects in schools in England needs to be rethought, but perhaps there are even more rotten foundations in our educational system which should be deconstructed and reconstructed first.
Anyway, watch the movie and tell me what you think
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Another TED talk link.