“Sure they break you down and strip you of your identity. But, school is school.” Baljeet
If you’ve seen Phineas and Ferb, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve never seen the show, you are missing out. Phineas and Ferb are two step-brothers who are always on summer vacation from school. Their intro song sums it up,
104 days of summer vacation,
And school comes along just to end it,
So the annual problem for our generation,
Is finding a good way to spend it
So, how do they spend it? Inventing things, of course. Being creative. Learning what they want to…when they want to. And it all STOPS when school STARTS. Bummer.
I know, I know, it’s just a Disney TV show. And it’s a cartoon. But it parallels life in a lot of ways.
All kids start out curious, and are constantly amused and amazed by what they learn. I think most kids start out thinking that school is fun. But then we spend 12 years sucking the joy out of it…out of them. Most kids I know are disillusioned by third or fourth grade. Occasionally, they do have a “good” year. That’s not enough.
I recently read an article titled, Why Kids Should Hate School (Joshua Knaak, LinkedIn, September 12, 2014). Learning should be hard and not fun, claims the author. That way, when kids graduate and get a job, it will be an improvement in their lives. In fairness, the author was arguing against coddling kids…against telling them their work is wonderful when it’s not…against grade inflation. (You can check out Knaak’s article here and see what you think.) I agree that we should have high standards. We don’t do students any favors when we expect too little.
But many people equate fun with not working hard. I maintain that you can work hard AND have fun. If students choose their own curriculum and work at their own pace (read: personalized learning), they WILL be interested in what they are learning and they WILL have fun doing it. And they will be more motivated, not less productive. We have to get over the idea that if it’s fun, you’re not learning anything.
In the meantime I have been thinking about why (many) kids hate school and I have come up with a list of reasons for that. Maybe you have reasons of your own to add.
- They aren’t allowed to learn what they want
- They already know what is being taught
- They are fearful or unsure of how to do the work
- They have to sit still for long periods of time
- They have to be quiet
- They get in trouble a lot (for not being still)
In the world of Phineas and Ferb, learning is cool. It isn’t dictated by others. Phineas and Ferb are fascinated by a wide variety of subjects. There are no limits on what they can do. There are interesting problems to solve. The first one is always, “What are we gonna do today?” That sounds like fun. Let’s make school more like that.