“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
I am a product of the public school system. I was molded in its shape, submitted to the litany of standardized tests, and made to meet the requisite goals imposed by some federally mandated baseline for how a student ought to perform. I was never asked my desires, my dreams, my hopes, or what I wanted to be when I grew up. I suppose that’s the devious thing about the nature of education these days, is we have baselines or requirements like it’s some sort of recipe towards success. I honestly, and this is just my personal opinion, don’t see a valid point in trying to make a child fit a mold you’ve created. Which, both of my children are not of the age where the public education systems are a concern, but I do see the effects of it, and I certainly remember its impact on me.
It’s been 15 years since I entered high school, 11 years since I’ve exited it, and I would be hard pressed to tell you the lessons I took from it. I learned to memorize banal facts, I learned to efficiently fill in bubbles on a scantron, and in some brighter moments I fostered my own love of reading. High school itself, and the education received within the walls of my particular institution, didn’t foster my love of learning. A want to learn fostered it. If I wanted to learn about how a car worked, no chemistry or mechanics course existed, but there were certainly materials for me to consume. This want to learn has steered me into my current career, and will continue to steer me towards the next steps of my own life.
That’s what I want from my own children, not the desire to be the best fit for some mold, but to be their own learner. If my eldest wants to continue learning about dinosaurs, I will encourage it, and I’m sure she’ll learn much more than their names and what sound they make. I suppose that’s the basis for Yeats’s quote, we aren’t simple pails which need to be filled and emptied. We are stuffed to the brim with kindling and ready to ignite with a sort of passion we seldom embrace. I know for a fact that kids love to learn, I can see it in the able minded young men and women who actively learn things like Lua and Python to make their own extensions to Mojang’s ever popular Minecraft. They do it because it’s fun, not because someone has told them they need to learn this.
Learning should be fun, not some rote exercise where you count down six or seven hour days and hope after twelve years you never have to crack open some outdated history book which gets the name of Myanmar wrong.
(Written by my husband, Liam)