Something’s Gone Wrong

Something’s Gone Wrong

Dr. Elaine Lee explores the crisis in our education system.
What do we want from our educational system? A reasonable guess at an answer would be that we want our children’s talents to be developed.

We want them to know something about the world they will move into as they mature, and we want them to have the skills to cope with that world: we want them to learn to ‘think’: to reason, analyse and evaluate. We want them to come out with a good school-leaving certificate.

What do we expect our children to learn?
The usual curriculum contains subjects, languages and the sciences and humanities, but careful reading of the syllabi shows that schooling is intended to develop far more than content knowledge. Children should be developing the thinking skills.

What are we actually getting?
Very little of any of the above. Something has gone horribly wrong. Children are bored out of their minds (literally – hence the epidemic of the so-called Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)!) My son asked me why he had to go to school, it was so boring. He was in Grade 3! This results in a rapid loss of interest in learning. How many teachers leave the profession because of their disillusionment with ‘the system’, because of the conflict in the classroom?

Children in Grade 0 are being put on mind-altering drugs to make them ‘concentrate’ – don’t we learn best when we are having fun? Children in Grade 1 are being told to repeat so that they can cope with the ‘rigours’ of Grade 2. They are given homework, and tests. They live in fear of failure.

Fear is a real biochemical event: it’s called the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome
Your thalamus and hypothalamus sense anxiety and assume there is some real physical danger present, hence respond with adrenalin, to give you the ability to cope physically. In addition, lactic acids go to your stomach, in order to slow the digestive process, so the child (and many adults) develop “butterflies”, or stomach cramps – even spastic colon. Later: ulcers. A third chemical, cortisol, floods the brain, and stops the normal neural processing there, so than brain cells (neurons) can no longer make their ‘connections’. Why? Because we are not supposed to fight and philosophize at the same time! So we ‘forget’ what we have learned. Then we say, “I’m stupid; I have a poor memory. I’m really no good at maths/science/afrikaans (whatever).” Once we have said this, it becomes true!

The emphasis has been so left-brained that we forget that children have right brains as well. The young genius learns to walk, talk, (and manipulate adults) by exploring the environment, and using all the senses: everything is touched, tasted, smelled – and repeated ad infinitum until mastered! The baby is learning by having fun.

When did your child last have fun at school?
Instead of developing the mind, it would appear that we are doing the reverse. A research project in the UK found that children aged 6 are several points higher on the IQ scale than children ten years back – but this declines over the next ten years! It then goes up several points when they reach their 20s. What does this tell us about the effectivity of schooling?

Schools have your child for most of the day – and then give piles of homework, which further depletes ‘free’ time, and leads to conflict with Mom and Dad. More stress is created within families by this than any other cause! Yet how much learning is actually taking place during the school hours? Many of the youngsters brought to me with educational ‘problems’ admit that they can sit in a class and not hear a single one of the ‘words of wisdom’. Some can emerge from the system barely literate, with a hatred of reading.

Why?
There are so many pressures on the average teacher that real relationships with their ‘learners’ (is that an appropriate term under the circumstances?) do not develop. It’s frightening to think how many of us went into teaching because we wanted to help in some way, only to find that we were stuck in a nightmare situation where we teach subjects, not people! We “have to get them through the syllabus”. In my first year of teaching, I covered the syllabus – but not many of the children in my classes did.

Today’s children are different
You and I, we more-or-less tolerated the long hours in the classroom. Some of the ‘new’ children are less discreet, less tactful, and less tolerant. If they are bored, they tend to say so!

They do not give automatic ‘respect’ to their elders, if they feel it is not deserved. These forthright youngsters are punished, but with no apparent effect. We risk turning them into real rebels. These are the children described as “indigo”.
There are other children who are less obstreperous, but who rebel in quieter ways. They are the “crystal” children. Given sympathetic circumstances, these youngsters are centred, and spiritually-attuned.

I have heard teachers deny that there is any change in children, but after more years than I care to remember of being involved in education, teacher-training, and helping these youngsters, oh yes, there is a change!

These are innovators, they have enormous leadership potential, they are not here to become sheep, and learn to conform in institutions that are more akin to the military than anything else.

What do they need?
They need enthusiastic teachers who are passionate about education and the subjects they teach, and passionate about using methods that will result in interest, hence success.
I have not ‘taught’ if my students have not ‘learned’!
They need more flexible time-tables which allow for the brain’s natural rhythm – we CANNOT ‘concentrate’ for hours on end!
The brain’s rhythm is a 90 minute cycle, alternating between left and right hemispheres, and moving between alpha and beta every 45 minutes. So, they in fact need much more time ‘out’ – to allow new information to soak in! Parents too need to know that it is not possible to study effectively for hours on end without a break, or two, or three…

NLP practitioners know that we have a preference for one learning mode above others, and most children are kinesthetic/visual rather than auditory learners. They NEED to fidget, to move. They are not designed to ‘sit still and listen’.

Talking is not teaching. If only more ‘teachers’ knew that!
They need to discuss life, spiritual and other issues. They need to explore the complexities of relationships. They need love and acceptance. They also sometimes need to question and challenge – and we should not be threatened by this!

Therefore, to refer back to the questions initially posed: to get the benefits you expect for your child, you are going to have to change the existing system!

We have begun a series of learning centres which use the approaches sketched above. These will remain small and personalized, to avoid the ‘military’ approach of ranked age groups. We pay attention to body, mind and spirit.
We teach the three R’s – respect for self, respect for others, and responsibility.

Hey, we also teach them to pass exams successfully!

Dr. Elaine Lee has taught at a number of schools and institutions over the past 30 years, including lecturing at Wits University, JCE and Promat colleges. She has an Honours degree in History, and a Ph.D from London University; an M.Ed. from Wits, and an H.Dip.Ed (Post-Grad) from UNISA.
In addition she has studied Accelerated Learning, Photo-reading, Educational Kinesiology, NLP, PNI and Reiki. She has written many articles on educational issues, and has worked as an independent Education Consultant since 1994. She works extensively with Indigo and Crystal children.

For further information, or to start a similar centre in your area, contact Dr Elaine Lee at 011 783 5661, or email: melee@global.co.za