Sunday, August 16, 2009

What are we missing?

I noticed on the back page of the Week in Review section from today's (Sunday August 16, 2009) New York Times Alison Gopnok writing "Your Baby is Smarter Than You Think." In the middle of the article was this, "Children take tests to prove that they have absorbed a specific set of skills and facts and have not been distracted by other possibilities." Modern human brains have a quality known as plasticity. It means that they grow in the direction of the tasks we ask them to perform. It works just like exercise; do curls and you get stronger biceps, study French and the parts of your brain that deal with language processing get stronger. Are we teaching our children to focus on what we direct them to focus on and ignore the 'other possibilities?' Are we strengthening the portions of their brains that follow instructions at the expense of thought processes that explore the unexpected. Are we limiting our children's ability to even see 'other possibilities?' Are we doing this on purpose? I think we are doing it just because it is easier. It is easier to deal with children who pay attention to what is on the board. It is easier to judge the progress of children, and thus (supposedly) the competence of their teachers if they are all tested in the same way about the same things. What is out there in the 'other possibilities' that we are missing?


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