Learning In America Essay, Research Paper
Education is a very broad term in that behaviors, experiences, and environment help form our way of educating ourselves. Not one single element can determine what we learn, but many variables are indeed the basis of our learning. The rate of learning is also unpredictable. But ultimately with the altering of certain aspects of motivation and conditioning on can alter the effectiveness of learning. Although a problem from perception, motivation, or previous experiences may inhibit the learning process, many psychologists agree on a normal learning among species (Kalat 190). A few questions explored in this essay are what will make learning more profitable for children? What makes children want to learn?
Education in the school system is seen as one way to develop methods of understanding and basic skills. Schooling is an attempt to learn from others experiences, thus becoming a social learning environment. Students learn from others by what the others do and how others react to the action. In the essay ?How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading? by John Holt, personal experiences in methods of learning are explored. In a grade one class the teacher asked the children to write, However the students were afraid to write because they did not know many words. So the professor told the students
to ask him to spell any words they needed help with. This quotation is from the next day of class:
The words were still on the board when we began school the next day. Before I began to erase them, I said to the children, ?Listen, everyone. I have to erase these words, but before I do, just out of curiosity, I?d like to see if you remember some of them.? The result was surprising. I had expected that the child who asked for and used a word might remember it, but I did not think many others would. But many of the children still knew the words. (463)
This is an example of social learning. The students learned from each other. Children learn by observing others who are doing what they would like to do. If the sense of self-efficacy is strong enough others imitate the behavior. People are selective with the person with whom they choose to imitate. Successful people are the desired resemblance. But not everyone can imitate what a single person achieved. People must acquire self-efficacy, which Kalat describes as “the perception that they themselves could perform the task successfully” (223). The reason is that not everyone can play basketball. As well if students see other students doing things they themselves want to do it. If everyone is playing a certain sport at recess it attracts most all the students only if the child knows he is capable of playing.
If children provide the correct answer, they are more likely to want to repeat this behavior. It is even more effective if the role model the child admires is seen learning or in this case reading.
Holt?s main point in the essay is to relay to the children that learning can be fun, especially reading. Through self-questioning he tried to devise different ways to learn other than the conventional methods. He came to the conclusion that many students disliked school because they felt that school was a danger. The learning process was partially blocked by the child?s fear of failure. This is brought forth in the reading ? From the very beginning of school we make books and reading a constant source of possible failure and public humiliation? (457). It is not fun if the child is wrong. It is always more enjoyable when the correct answer is given and self-esteem is reaffirmed. The children must feel free to advance through failure. But in the classroom failing is deemed as something horrible. Teachers focus on testing students constantly to report progress. But this can not work unless the teacher?s explain what was done wrong in a positive attitude. Children often see school as a competition. They always compete for grades. This ultimately makes the classroom become a battlefield for intelligence.
Positive reinforcement provides the environment with advancement to education. When a student gets an answer correct the teacher puts perhaps a happy face or a check mark followed by a good job. This inevitably tells the student that this is the norm in which to gain recognition. This will make the child benevolent and wishing to acquire the same status over again. Now the child has been conditioned to make the right response. If the child is capable of the problem, fear is diminished. In contrast to that is negative reinforcement. As suggested in Holt?s story ? Often one of the most painful punishments a child can suffer in school. In any case the child who has made the
mistake knows he has made it, and feels foolish, stupid, and ashamed, just as any of us would in his shoes? (458). This brings a sense of self-doubt and makes a person less attractive to learning. With positive reinforcement one is more apt to want to learn.
Many teachers still teach very conditionally and old fashioned. They make redundant tests, read boring lectures, and provide little outside sources. This is by no means a wrong method, because things are being taught. But it does not bring a chance to expand in the classroom. In order to learn children have to ask questions, and be set free. Some teachers teach what they are told to teach and nothing more. If they are constantly under barrage to comply with the curriculum, they lack essential time that could be used to explore other sources of information. Children want to know about a lot of stuff, but school only offers what is felt required. This makes schooling boring for children. Holt even admits to his own causation for this ?I even devised special kinds of vocabulary test, allowing them to use their books to see how the words were used. But looking back I realize that these tests, along with many of my methods, were foolish? (456).
Some teachers provide unconventional methods. They take their classes on field
trips, get guest speakers and have question periods. These teachers still must conform to the curriculum, which is essential to graph individual progress and evaluate how well the overall class learns. They are in a sanctuary in the classroom. These teachers give their students a sense of security by bringing the outside world to the children. Teachers also must provide a sense of safety for learning, by initiating activity and participation.
Students must be at ease to learn, instead of a hostile environment. They have to have fun learning, so they want to learn more because it is fun.
Children want to learn, from where to how they are supplied that information is up to the people in charge. The school board is run by adults and concerned parents. An environment must be constructed according to the changes in society, as noted in America Skips School by Barber ?Our kids spend 900 hours a year in school (the ones that go to school) and from 1,200 to 1,800 hours a year in front of the television set? (472). This means that the children find more opportunity to interpret things outside the classroom. They do not desire to go to school or they just go because they are forced. This is a problem in America, getting kids to want to learn. This needs to be addressed by the superiors.
Either teaching is boring or children do not want to waste time in school. They would rather try to do something productive or something they like. Teachers have to make learning fun so they can attract and keep students interested. Many organizations have no problem drawing attention from their clientele. If the school board could find something everyone was interested in it would be a success. In society today much emphasis is put on attaining wealth or prestige. School has to provide this chance to students. If children knew that going to school meant a great future I am sure more people would stay enrolled. The fact is many people today are succeeding without education. In turn people are persuaded to take alternate routes. If children see prominent figures, at least ones that are recognizable then maybe more children would stay in school. Because the children will assume the activity as the norm. If people like
Michael Jordan made public announcements about staying in school a good percentage of children will follow. However the problem is that Jordan lives the rich lifestyle. He does endorse products and makes a lot of cash. Children see this and want to acquire what Jordan has done, not what Ghandi did.
The system has to change, and more effort has to be put forth to encourage learning. Learning has to provide students with a gratuity for having learned. This is given in this quote ? Children are onto this game. They know that if we really valued books, we?d pay teachers what we pay stockbrokers; if we valued books, we?d spend a little something on the libraries so that adults could read too? (Barber 474). Children see no real benefit to attending school.
Many different interpretations can be made on education in America. The main point is recognizing a problem exists. Some idea’s point to not enough money, others point to laziness of teachers, or it could be the methods of teaching. It is hard to pin point, maybe all of the above. One thing is for sure; more emphasis has to be engaged on this topic because it is not only the children?s future, but ours as well. Changing children?s views on learning begins with changing the views of how and what we want them to learn. Making the classroom a fun safe place to learn is one possible procedure.
Kalat, James W. Introduction to Psychology. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1999.
Peterson, Linda H, et al, Eds. The Norton Reader. 9th ed. New York: 1996.
Barber, Benjamin R. ? America Skips School. ? Peterson et al. 470.
Holt, John. ? How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading. ? Peterson et al. 455.