Three kids, ten years of Montessori teaching, and four recent years of being a parent in the public school system to date, the question “what are we preparing our kids for?” has been weighing heavily on my mind.
A recent article in the Globe and Mail suggests that if we want to raise a nation of entrepreneurs, we must stop coddling our kids. I couldn’t agree more.
Our education system is built on an old, industrial model: fresh off the heels of the industrial revolution, we developed a school system that would watch the efficiency of the assembly line. We seat kids in neat little rows, and parcel them and their learning up into tidy bundles of information. The teacher is the center point of knowledge, from whence all information comes.
Has education evolved since then? Kind of. I mean, now we have smart boards in the class room, so instead of inviting kids to use their imagination, we just throw a quick YouTube video up there. Instead of letting kids chat at lunch, we fire up an episode of Caillou, in the name of learning French. Instead of allowing for huge, unfettered chunks of time to free play, create, and explore outside, we cut back on outdoor ed, gym, art, and music.
This system is broken.
What are we doing?
Our system is preparing kids to lead lives as cogs in the machine, to sit and consume information rather than explore the learning process, do their work, not question, take it home with them on evenings and weekends and holidays to drive the message home. We’re essentially preparing them for middle management. You know, the entire sector of work that’s currently being replaced by robots. We are dissuading our kids from taking risk, from pushing boundaries, from failing and learning from every single one of those failures. We are teaching them to underuse their brain, and just play fair.
Yes, structure is important; freedom of exploration is important too, and there is absolutely a way to keep that in balance. Hands on learning and the opportunity to fail, problem solve, feel bored, and turn that boredom into a new creation is what develops the brain. It’s how we learn what works, what doesn’t, and how to turn a concept into an idea. That’s how we raise a nation of thinkers, not workers. We let our kids do what they do naturally and voraciously: learn by observing and gathering information around them.