Saturday, August 14, 2010

What's The Point Of School, by Guy Claxton

From the back cover: "With their emphasis on regurgitated knowledge and stressful exams, today's schools are actually doing more harm than good... ...Guy Claxton proves that education's first priority should be to create enthusiastic learners who can thrive in our complicated and dynamic world..."

I was drawn to this book by the title, as I am not one to blindly follow the system.  I like to question the status-quo, especially when systems appear to be failing at accomplishing the purpose they were designed for.  Also, it is sometimes useful to look at the reason for a thing's existence in order to understand its structure.

The education system is meant to be a learning tool for young (and not so young) people to go into and then come out the other side with some more skills and ability to live their lives.  The government wants productive and happy members of society and the education system is one tool they use to accomplish this end.

Guy Claxton argues that the system is no longer serving these purposes because, amongst other things, it has become more about preparing students to pass exams so that statistics can look better for schools and the government.  In the process, almost every sound principle of natural learning that we take into the system is compromised in order to get us to fit into the artificial learning process.  It reminds me of the Pharisees who had a very detailed system of law, rules, and regulations for worship and did it very well, while at the same time they were missing the point of worship entirely.

Even thought he argues that exams have no real bearing on whether someone will have a happy and successful life, Claxton shows that the educational system is pretty bad at it's own game.  Students cannot pass exams that they have been inadequately prepared for, yet we push out students to achieve extreme goals without giving them the resources to meet those goals.  A result of this is a generation of young people who do not enjoy learning and who seek every alternative they can find that will give them the feelings of success they crave.

There is so much more to say on this, but I'll save it for another time as I'm putting together a few quotes and comments arising from my reading of this book so far.  I'll post snippets as they develop.