Thursday, March 09, 2006

"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." Socrates

Y'see? NBS and I have widely differing opinions as to our expected end results for KI students. No doubt we both want them to eventually become wise beyond their years, but we seem to be disagreeing on what to consider as progress milestones.

For me, I look at the culture schoolkids are raised in today and I see an environment in which kids are taught to shut up and accept "knowledge" from whatever higher authority. Kids don't go to school to ask questions; but rather, they go to answer them. So after 10+ years of such conditioning, kids believe that answers are more valuable than questions; and if they don't have immediate answers, they think they're screwed for life.

The education system tends to be prescriptive. It doesn't encourage curiosity, but instead gives the impression that whatever isn't in the syllabus isn't important, and therefore there isn't any need to find out more than what's in front of the nose. Questions probing beyond tend to fall somewhere between "impertinent" and "irrelevant," and more often than not are quashed by a teacher's icy glare.

The child's eventually learns to recognize what are potentially inappropriate and/or embarrassing lines of inquiry and self-censors verbal articulation of thoughts that need clarification or further explanation, though such questions may hold valuable keys to gaining a better understanding of the concept being considered. This self-censor -- which has the power to save "face" -- is unfortunately also the biggest stumbling block to a child's learning ability.

The self-censor is an important socialization tool. It prevents misunderstanding between people, and it alerts us to sensitivities of the concept under discussion. But under repeated conditioning it kicks into overdrive and we can't be bothered to argue with it any longer. We take the easy way out and stop questioning altogether.

Most of us live under the tyranny of the self-censor for the rest of our lives. We're too afraid, too embarrassed, too polite to ask questions any longer. We remain quiet, content to absorb information but not engage it, and so our learning ends once we leave school. The KI student works to overcome this fate, taking back control from his/her self-censor so that he/she can reclaim the freedom to question and be curious once again.

As for our field trip to Parliamant House on Wednesday, our KIds showed the will and the audacity to ask about things they didn't understand, or about discrepancies between their expectations and what they actually observed. The questions may not have been profound abstractions showing off how smart they were, but rather admissions that they didn't know what was going on and yet they wanted to find out anyway. This, to me is what learning is all about. The answers they got to their queries were quite satisfactory, and compared to their seniors who tended to just sit quietly, I'm sure the KIds got more out of the visit.

NBS isn't wrong about wanting to be more ambitious for the KIds. As we progress, they will learn to raise the level of their queries. But after having had only 1 term with us, they are already starting to become curious about their world again. That, to me, is a stumbling block removed. Heh. Between NBS and me, I think we're going to see our 1st batch of KIds through ok.

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