Back when I was in school, my mother (a teacher) told me that I needed to learn to “play the game” with regard to school and schoolwork. What she meant by this was that I needed to do the things the teacher wanted (as opposed to things that were actually productive, educational, or indicative of some transfer of knowledge or experience) in order to be judged good. If I were judged good, I would get good grades and, consequently, into college (this being before the Internet boom, when graduating from college was pretty much required in order to have a comfortable life.)
I should mention that she was making this statement in reference to activities demanded by a person designated as a “Master Teacher” by my school system.
Being a potentially rational child (as all children are before being corrupted by adult minds), I thought this was pretty silly. While discipline and obedience might be considered useful traits, the lessons that I concluded were being taught were 1. that the perception of accomplishment was more important than actual accomplishment and 2. the educational system was about accomplishing arbitrary steps in a process (that is never explained, justified, verified, and appears to have no relation to reality), not actual learning.
And in my consequent efforts, both of these conclusions proved to be true. If this book is any indication, those lessons don’t change as you advance through the educational system.
So students are getting lessons that learning is not a useful goal … that actions associated with school are tasks to complete, disconnected from any other use but the immediate grades the accomplishment earns them. This is but one of the ridiculously large number of implicit and explicit indicators that actual thought (the facilitation of which is the whole point of learning) is not a useful or desirable thing.
And teachers seem to be surprised that students don’t continue efforts that they think should be educational, or that the risk of failure outweighs the potential benefit of learning:
My mother visited the other day. During one part of a conversation, I mentioned that I remembered the lessons she taught me. What I didn’t say was that many of those lessons were unintentional.
Do you know what lessons you’re actually teaching your children?