There are many good teachers today who struggle to impart knowledge to classes that are far too large. They have to contend with bored and sometimes angry young people who can be disruptive and distracting for those with their noses to the grindstone – getting on with what is expected of them, whether they agree with it or not. Teachers can see the potential and creativity in their classrooms but often find their hands are tied by what could be described as archaic rules and an educational system that dictates ‘one size must fit all’.
One hundred years ago, Anne Sullivan Macy, tutor to Helen Keller, gave an inspirational speech at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition 1915. You may not agree with all of her observations but she makes some valid points. Here is an excerpt of what she had to say. If you would like to read more of her speech, follow the source link at the bottom of the post. By the way, I have nothing but admiration for the dedication of teachers today. They very often don’t get thanked or paid enough for the work they do.
‘Every child begins life an eager, active little creature, always doing something, always trying to get something that he wants very much. Even before he can utter a word, succeeds in making known his desires by cries and grimaces. He invents and devises ways to get the things he wants. He is the star performer in his little world; he is the horse, the coachman, the policeman, the robber, the chauffeur, the automobile. He will be anything that requires initiative action. The one thing he never voluntarily chooses to be is the grown up personage that sits in the car and does nothing.
Our educational system spoils this fine enthusiasm. We impose the role of passenger upon the child, and give him no opportunities to exercise his inborn creative faculties. The alluring joy of creation is not for him. He is deluged with accomplished facts. Naturally, he becomes mischievous and difficult to manage. He is compelled to defy his teachers in order to save his soul.
Our schools give no encouragement to assimilation, reflection, observation. They kill imagination in the bud. They uproot the creative ideals of childhood and plant in their place worthless ideals of ownership. The fine soul of the child is of far greater importance than high marks, yet the system causes the pupil to prize high grades above knowledge, and he goes from the schools into his life work believing always that the score is more important than the game, possession more praiseworthy than achievement.’
Wouldn’t it be refreshing one hundred years from now, in 2115, to find that Anne Sullivan Macy’s words had been taken on board and the education system completely overhauled.