Going beyond superficial learning

Far too many schools today are ... guilty of not allowing our children to think for themselves.

Children are too often being forced to submit to an unimaginative curriculum in an environment where the teacher makes all the decisions, while the children suffer under the delusion that they are really learning. What they are getting is shallow, superficial learning that profits neither the teacher nor the pupil. Today’s children need far more stimulation than they are being given. They are learning by rote, responding to stock questions with stock answers; too seldom are they allowed to use their minds imaginatively and creatively.

On the few occasions when a child or young adult is suddenly presented with a “thought” question, he is unprepared to cope with it — his thinking processes have become stagnant from disuse. It is a pathetic fact that too many young people today are able to think and talk only in vague generalities and abstractions. Is it the fault of the child that he is ill prepared, or does the fault lie within the structure of our present-day educational system and, indeed, with the parents themselves, for placing too much emphasis on dependency?

Are we raising a generation of pampered, dependent children, who are slowly being allowed to lose all concept of originality and creativity? The importance of teaching our children how to learn and think for themselves in the earliest, formative years cannot be overstressed. A solid, sound framework must be laid, on which the child's future learning — a never-ending process — can be based. The child prepared in this way will not be satisfied with superficial learning but will want to delve more deeply into whatever he studies on his own.

--Elizabeth G. Hainstock, from Teaching Montessori in the Home