When it comes to education, we have deceived our children. Not intentionally, but because we care for them and want them to not feel pain of any sort or suffer any difficulty. So we soft-pedal the fact that getting an education is not always going to be fun – – that it’s not going to be easy and, in some cases might be difficult, not physically, but in facing the hard work and inconvenience necessary to learn.
In actuality, we know this because we had to face it. But we also know that education and wisdom just do not fall out of a tree — it requires dedication and commitment. Children need to learn this, and it is their duty to do so.
American philosopher, Mortimer Adler, addressed the issue of getting an education very directly. He said:
“Anyone who has done any thinking, even a little bit, knows that it is painful. It is hard work — in fact the very hardest that human beings are ever called upon to do. It is fatiguing, not refreshing. If allowed to follow the path of least resistance, no one would ever think. To make boys and girls, or men and women, think — and through thinking really undergo the transformation of learning — educational agencies of every sort must work against the grain, not with it. Far from trying to make the whole process painless from beginning to end, we must promise them the pleasure of achievement as a reward ….”
Sounds old-fashioned, doesn’t it. But in today’s world of television, computers, iPads, or other technology, being entertained constantly is a vast aberration of real life. Easy ways are not always the best way and everything cannot be reduced to cartoons and pseudo-educational games, or snippets of YouTube that doesn’t require any effort, no less reading or writing. Certainly technology is a resource, but is not a panacea and a way to avoid the hard work of thinking and learning. While videogames may exercise the child’s thumbs, it does not necessarily exercise their mind or their ability to think skeptically, critically, or deeply.
Learning is hard work and requires commitment. Teachers are not entertainers. In the old days, many of us were taught that we must work hard and our lives will be better because opportunities will avail themselves. No simple three-point plan or a quick pill will instill an understanding of knowledge, concepts, values, and responsibility. Education and the hard work to get there is empowering and a part of the lesson.
In the past, students were expected to get the most out of school. Parents from all socio-economic backgrounds valued education and its importance in the long haul of life. They held their children responsible and did not tolerate the claptrap that some students hold today that they are not responsible for their poor grades, attendance, or behavior — many just blame the teacher.
Life isn’t always easy: difficulty, unfairness, and harshness exist. Our welfare and future can be threatened. Tough patches arise and how we respond is very important. The same is true for children growing up. As much as we may desire, we cannot protect and shelter our children from life and tough situations.
What we can do is teach our children that they are not helpless and hapless victims. There are things they can do when confronted with challenging times. They have options, and their decisions are important. They are able to respond in troublesome times and situations. They are response-able.
Many current reforms place all of the responsibility for children’s achievement on the shoulders of teachers. That’s overly simplistic and negates any responsibility of parents and students for learning and achievement.
In a sense, many reformers place parents and students in the category of ill-fated victims at the mercy of others. First, parents’ responsibility is to prepare children for school, and second, children are responsible for their conduct and learning with each increasing grade.
The straightforward fact is that parents and students have duties and responsibilities. Both are response-able. Both are not simply victims. Both are active participants in the process of education.
See: The the Fog of Reform: Getting Back to a Place Called School