Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Delicate Balance

The Delicate Balance
By Jill Jenkins

With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word 'intellectual,' of course, became the swear word it deserved to be.”
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

                What is important for students to know?  What should our schools be teaching? If you listen to media, all the schools should be focused on is STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Just like in the 1950’s our society is demanding that education provide more STEM education to provide a technological suave population who can produce a profit for our corporations. Are schools created to serve our corporations or the individual needs of our students?  Society certainly rewards students who perform well in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but not every student has the desire or the aptitude to do well in those areas.  Are we doing those students a disservice? Since girls have stronger verbal skills and brains wired for an education in communications is this a subtle form of prejudice?  Before we write our curriculum, it is important to determine what is important to know to help our students become both productive citizens and principled people.  We need a more balanced approach to serve all of the needs of all of the varied students in our classes?
                Schools need to prepare students to be productive citizens, but to be honest with as rapidly as technology is changing that is not an easy task.  As a child, I remember laughing at Maxwell Smart and his shoe telephone.  Now, all of us carry telephones around in our pockets that are not only communication devices, but small computers.  The truth is there will be careers that we can’t even imagine, so we have to give students skills to be life-long learners.  To achieve they must be willing to learn new skills through-out their lives. We need to prepare students to adapt to world that we cannot conceive existing. 

                Research shows that females learn differently than males. According to the article, “How Boys and Girls Learn Differently” by Dr. Gail  Gross from the Huffington Post ,boys have less serotonin and oxytocin which makes girls more sensitive to other’s  feeling subtly communicated through body language and they can sit still for longer periods of time.  Girls have larger hippocampus, where memory and language is stored.  This means they develop language skills, reading skills and vocabulary much sooner than boys. On the other hand, boys have a larger cerebral cortex which means they learn visually and have better spatial relationships.  This could improve their ability in engineering and technology.  These differences become less dramatic as the child grows older.  Perhaps schools need to focus on presenting a broad spectrum of disciplines in a variety of ways to serve all of students.  

                 Even though our society does not value careers where communications rather than subjects like science, technology, engineering and mathematics are the primary focus, they may still be important careers for our society.  For example, teachers are essential if we want to continue to produce an educated workforce, but if pay is the measurement of value, they are not valued by society.  In the state where I taught science, engineering, technology and math teachers were all paid $5000.00 a year more than any other kind of teacher.  Still, if we want to be realistic students’ need a balance of both to be successful.  For example, my daughter is a journalist; however, she also needs to know how to write computer coding because the magazine that employs her is on-line.  Most scientists must document whatever they do which means they need writing and reading skills. Furthermore, who is to say who will be the next poet laureate .   The arts, history and language arts are all equally important skills for students to master as math, science and technological based skills.  
                Even more important, the humanities:  literature, history and the arts force people to ask “why.”  Certainly, we can’t think about Nazi Germany without realizing, there was a reason that Hitler banned books.  We can’t read a Michael Critchton book without discussing ethics in science and medicine.  We can’t read Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist without questioning the social problems caused by poverty and homelessness.  Reading, writing, history, the arts are all connected to science, math, technology and engineering.  A quality education is a balance.  All of it is equally important.  Teachers should be compensated equally and students should be provided with an equal balance.  Teachers should help students develop their own individual talents, so they can become all that they can be.  Schools should prepare each student to become “all that they can be,” not a product to serve the needs of industry.