Let’s me start by discussing the purpose of education. While many in today’s culture talk of getting kids to think deeply & solve real-world problems, they miss something more fundamental. We cannot think critically or deeply without some requisite amount of background knowledge. If we want to prepare citizens capable of critical/analytical thinking, we must equip them with tools with which they can work.
First, students must have a working set of basic concepts. That is, kids must be able to recall at a moments notice specific truths about our world. For example, science students should know the atomic weights of at least the first 16 elements by heart. As another example, students should be able to recite state capitals so as to not sound ignorant in the workplace. A working knowledge of history is also required. Students should know specific dates & locations of significant people’s demise & who is responsible for particular documents. Perhaps students should even learn to recite certain documents so as to guard against those who might misquote important passages. If students leave our schools with these sets of information, transferred intact from teacher to student, they are likely to become leaders & innovators. Having a solid grounding in current understanding is the only way our students can hope to thrive in tomorrow’s world.
Now that we know what children should learn, let us consider how. While we hope knowledge to be transferred intact from teacher to student, we know that human beings are flawed & that inflection in teachers’ speech can cause misinterpretation of information by students. This is very troubling. For this reason, teachers ought to make extensive use of technology, which can transfer information without bias. There are already many high quality writings on how to use technology to transmit information to students, so I won’t belabor that point here.
A couple of final points on how education ought help students acquire information with greatest efficiency. First, many students will struggle to remember particular facts so we should be sure to supply plenty of opportunities to practice. Because using precious class time to practice makes little sense, practice should be don’t at home. Second, when first learning new information, students should sit quietly & take copious notes on what the teacher (or preferably, the computer) is transmitting. These sessions may take some time so students will need to learn to sit quietly in the primary grades & not disrupt their classmates with their own opinions.
With these basic principles, we can begin to work against the damage done to our students in the last several decades. Good luck & God’s speed!