Utne June 98

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Learning in the Key of Life by Jon Spayde, June 1998. pg. 45-47.

Submitted by: Paul Brownlow

David Orrs comparison of slow knowledge versus fast knowledge in Jon Spaydes article Learning in the Key of Life is the trend most schools are following today. I agree with Stephen Covey in his book Principle-Centered Leadership when he says society is more concerned with the efficiency of people and systems rather than their effectiveness. If schools keep producing students who cannot effectively work the slow knowledge system, the United States is going to lack the great thinkers needed to navigate the future.

Americas education system is held accountable by quantitative assessment. The old saying quality over quantity is not being practiced or expected of our schools. This is also true of the expectations in todays industry. People who want to make teachers and students more accountable only evaluate and understand hard numbers, not the accomplishments of higher level thinking.

Students have also been molded into this same frame of mind. They want the quick, easy answer. A regurgitation of facts seems to the get the A, and when students are required to think creatively they balk at the idea. Other times, teachers find it easier to just give them the right answers. How can we expect these students to think and succeed when there is no one there to give them the right answer?

The graduation standards are trying to change these methods, but have flaws that need to be fixed before they can be implemented. Actually, most teachers would incorporate more of these ideas into their classroom, if they were not expected to meet the challenges of quantitative assessment. When the media comes out with reports that say our schools are failing, school administrators often instruct their teachers to revert back to the old methods that teach the basic facts (fast knowledge).

Since I have entered the education field, I have often wondered what students should be able to do when they leave high school. What courses were the most valuable? What courses did nothing for our students? And finally, what teaching style and method actually engaged the students in critical thinking, so that they may go out and succeed in a highly competitive world.

-- Anonymous, November 18, 1998

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