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Paul van Zoggel

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Stop punishing kids in primary schools for being wrong.

Ken Robinson + Kathryn Schulz = teach kids being wrong is not a bad thing.

Until we enter primary school, we learn through play. Experiment, explore, test ourselves, mirror heroes (parents and cartoons). At 2 years old we seriously push boundaries and our powers. And than it HAPPENS ; At primary schools our names start ending up on lists, making mistakes is punished. Being wrong is wrong from then on for the rest of our lives.

Can we stop doing that? Who knows how?

It's an idea I hope is spreading already as there are 136.000.000 toddlers of 2 years old who soon will be told wrong IS wrong.

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    Apr 20 2011: The whole concept of education is wrong. There should be no punishment either direct or indirect. All this does is serve to compound a feeling of inadequacy and low confidence. Being wrong is part of the process of ;earning just ask any self respecting scientist they will tell you that. Being wrong in sport and failing is part of the learning curve to greatness. A major league pitcher if they are lucky succeeds only a little over 35% of the time, that is a great pitcher by the way. The problem is in order to stop the method of education we have at the moment we would have to completely revise the way in which employers judge who to hire how universities decide who should attend and how we are able to judge how we are advancing within the education process.
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      Apr 20 2011: Thanks Lee. To be blunt; where do we start? How to proof 'the better alternative'. You can't have a primary school experiment and realize when they leave after years the experiment didn't work. 'Sorry kid, we we were wrong'. Taking about the dog biting his tail in learning to be wrong.
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        Apr 20 2011: No kidding, that of course is one of the problems I believe, as bad as this model is we know in one sense it works. I think the problem is not in the content but in the delivery. A child works hard for 12 years and then does not do well on the final test's, a child is very bright but unable to sit still hour after hour listening to sometimes very boring teachers and as school progresses, increasingly challenging content. The list goes on as to why a 'One size fits all' does not fit all, the challenge, like you say is how to move away from it. I am taking a lot of my childrens education into my own hands and as my 15 year old starts her final years of school I will be taking it upon myself to take her to museums, major events and encouraging her to pursue things she is good at like photography. With my 4 year old who is just starting school and loving it I can see a problem already looming. She is very bright and asks WHY at least a hundred times a day, which is great. The school system however is not set up that way as we know and soon it will be saying to her "because I say so' which of course to me is not the right answer. I will cross that bridge when we get there however.

        In truth, I believe we as parents need to take this problem into our own hands.
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    Apr 21 2011: The real problem is that we treat Education like the Pizza industry and I have been in both. In the mid 190s when pizza was at an all time high there began price wars. The only way to compete in price wars is to lower the quality of the product. In time the product being sold was still a pizza but a very poor model. It's getting to that state with education. I strongly believe any politician who utters the words cut back on education should be dismissed without warning. I cannot for the life of me see how making cuts in education will solve any problem now and can only cause a greater one in the future. That is the first place to start,by investing in education. This does not always mean barrels of money either, however we do need more and better trained teachers, smaller class sizes and a better option for the many ways in which humans learn and take on board information. It will not come through testing, all that does is tell you where people are on a scale of 1 to 10 not really how effectively they are learning. On another analogy with the restaurant industry, it was the restaurants who employed more and better waiters and gave a high quality product who managed to have the people lining up to eat there, the ones who made cut backs and entered into 2 for 1s and price wars eventually suffered and many just closed down.

    Invest in education! That is the first place to start.
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      Apr 21 2011: In good times Governments fix holes in the system with money (like extra staff, special schools, etc), in bad times same results need to be made with less money.

      For the Netherlands and Romania for example (my field of view) the cutbacks for primary schools are huge, basically impossible for directors to keep the school functioning.

      To stay on the topic of 'wrong', what you currently see in ipod/ipad equipped classrooms children have a private space and realize themselves 'I can do better than this'. In their own time they can try tasks just as long as they are happy with the result. This relieves teachers in weekends to be a sledgehammer and kids learn intuitively better and faster.

      Ofcourse investing in technology and apps does not work for everything, but sure creates space in personal learning styles and self motivation to try harder.
  • Apr 21 2011: Should this idea not be spread to more than just primary education, knowing you are wrong is important, it is a way of learning!
    I think the issue is often a lack of a *constructive* follow up;
    --"why am I wrong," "what should i have done," "what can I do now the mistake is made."
    Admittadly this applies little to toddlers, but perhaps in the last years of primary school, particularly as children realise right and wrong can be less black and white in both academic and social aspects.

    (That's not to disagree with the point though, which sounds like it's aimed more at misbehaviour... also there is a lot of blocks of text here!)
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      Apr 21 2011: I guess I realized we don't have a clue what is today the 'right' way of learning at all. So I thought to start with toddlers :) If we can't even get a grip on that, we can give up on older kids and adults before hand! But to mark your point, yes; it's a problem everywhere.
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    Apr 21 2011: What are these lists and what punishments are applied?
  • Apr 21 2011: I think schools should reflect life more -- and currently they do not. Life rewards rare, chance excellence. Schools rewards consistency. I know several folks who never fared well in school because, three out of four times, they'd get 100/100 and be the first rank, and yet one out of four times, they'd forget to do the homework and get 0/100. By taking the arithmetic average, the school decides they're on par with someone who consistently achieves 75/100 and has no grasp or mastery of the subject.

    Companies are wiser, because real money is at stake. They look for complementary talent because they know they can take the best ideas from each one. While schools look at the individual scores 100, 100, 0, 100 and see "75", companies look at the improvement such an individual would make to the business, the "ROI" of the individual. A company that assembles a small group of individuals who individually score 100 or 0 will see the group collaboratively achieve 100/100. Contrast that with a similar arrangement involving those consistently scoring 75. Due so some slight non-overlap, a small group of folks consistently scoring 75/100 may achieve 93/100 collaboratively. The end result? The higher scoring former group gets paid more. In the real world, individual value is obtained as the 'per capita' group value. If you make the group better, they value you. If you're redundant.. well, "your position has been made redundant" has become code for "you're fired".

    Schools should stop ushering people towards consistency and mediocrity. They should promote exceptional talent, allowing students to take risks. Students who can solve the hard "challenge" problems on a test while not making time to complete the easy problems should not be bucketed in with students who consistently solve the easy problems and never once attempt nor solve the challenge problem.
  • Apr 21 2011: I actually studied 'Education' in college. We did not receive good coursework! I left that 'trade' for one that could provide a position for me but have worried about the system ever since. At the time A.S. Neill and Summerhill school in Britain were the guiding light. The students pushed themselves. Once a manager called Neill to ask him him why in earth he should hire one of Neill's students. Neill merely said that the boy had learned to solve any problem or task given him. Months later, the same manager called back asking Neill to tell him of any other young boys he could send his way - because the boy had proven to be such a wonderful employee.

    In my student teaching, I found such dis-affection for school by the 7th through 12th graders! It seemed the same when my children went to public school - luckily they had good schools and teachers backing them up - as well as coaches - the cross-country coach started with a meagre team of 10 to 12 and built it up to over 100. Besides being the the Physics teacher, he became one of the anchors of student life. Anyway, students DID NOT want to be in school in my time, and the love for information needs to be cultivated.
  • Apr 20 2011: I disagree. What I see as a high school teacher is kids who have NOT been corrected or held responsible enough! They have gotten automatic A's, grades of "satisfactory" & "complete" for work that the (probably overburdened) teacher didn't even read, much less correct. So I see kids who are OFFENDED when their mistakes are pointed out, and PARENTS calling me about any grade less than an A! Let kids fail, and learn that it's not the end of the world. You can fail an assignment and LEARN from that, without failing the course.
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      Apr 20 2011: Hi Stephanie, in part I agree with you but I believe there is a distinction between being corrected and being made to feel wrong. Of course testing and correction is part and parcel of good teaching, but I believe at least for me, the one size fits all system does not work and does make children believe they are wrong and stupid for not being able to get it. We learn in a variety of ways as I know you know being a teacher so to say this is the system and it does not seem to work for you, oh well, better luck next time does not work.
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      Apr 21 2011: It looks like two extremes; kids need order and correction on the other hand they need space to play/explore and not to be punished the same way. So probably our 'left brain' needs 'punishment' to develop, be challenged in this way. And the 'right brain' needs space to discover and try out relationships on idea's/information. Guess figuring out what learning goals fits best where is the first task to do. And some kids start good on one left side and others on the right side.

      On teachers overburdened, I see dozens of great passionate teachers opting out because in the evening and weekends they have to go through all the children booklets to correct. Children correction eachother, teaching eachother on 'mistakes' can relief some of that.
  • Apr 20 2011: What are you talking about? Do you believe that being told you are wrong and being corrected is "punishment"? If not, then what punishment do you imagine is meted out for being wrong? The advantage of discovering you are wrong requires you to find out you are wrong. That is not a negative. It should be a positive. If you can remember it, then when you find out you are wrong, you get to be right about that for the rest of your life. There are right and wrong answers. Believing wrong things when it has been explained that it is wrong is dangerous and harmful. Children should certainly be dissuaded from holding on to wrong beliefs.
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      Apr 20 2011: As I mentioned to Stephanie, for me there is a distinction between learning by correction and system which has a built in structure (by no ones fault I hasten to add, it has just grown into this) which condemns children for not all learning the same way.