Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What does it mean to “Teach Diamonds”?

           Diamonds are the world’s hardest gemstone.  Teaching is a manner in which we transfer information, whether it be how to accomplish something or knowledge of a person, place, or event, from one person to another.  With these two definitions, which have nothing to do with one another, what does it mean to “teach diamonds”?
            Diamonds are fascinating gemstones.  The more you study them, the more intriguing they become.  Initially, they are beautiful to look at.  Most people think of the clear diamonds which we see so often, yet they also come in colors of blue, yellow, red, brown, green, and more. Mechanically, it is extremely difficult (though not impossible) to destroy one. Diamonds contain very few impurities.  To form, a diamond must be in conditions that are high-pressure, high temperature, and with soil that has high-carbon content.  Even then, it takes the power of a volcanic eruption to bring the diamonds close enough to the surface of the earth to be found.  Even with today’s advanced sciences, it is still possible to distinguish between real and synthetic diamonds, though it takes research to be able to do this.
            While it seems to be an obvious statement, it is essential to understand that diamonds are valuable.  With this in mind, the idea of “Teaching Diamonds” is simply to teach what is important, or valuable.
            “Don’t we do that, anyway?” 
            Actually, no.  Most prepared curriculum is not designed to teach only essential concepts.  That also goes for most public school objectives, which are required by each individual state.  Both prepared curriculum and state objectives require a great deal of effort and time to be spent on teaching ideas which are either unnecessary, as they are so basic that most children will learn as they mature, or on objectives which are not fundamental to a healthy, fulfilled life.  They also teach concepts at times when the child is developmentally not ready for the concept.  In fact, I would assert that fully one half to three-fourths of prepared curriculum, either by private companies or state educational departments, are simply a waste of time.  More than that, many children are simply overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do in each grade that they learn to be failures at an early age.  Let me show a couple of examples.
            First, many prepared curriculums require objectives that are a waste of time.  Most pre-K and Kindergarten (and some first grade) literacy objectives list something like this:  “Identifies the front cover and back cover of a book.”  Really?  We have to spend time teaching a child which is the front and back cover of a book?  I have known teachers who actually have lessons over this fundamental concept.  However, if they simply gave them experience with books, most children will pick up which side is the front cover of the book, at least they will know this for their favorite books and then they will naturally start applying the concept as they learn more about reading.  It is not a concept which you should spend time actually teaching, yet it is very common to see this exact requirement in many literary programs.
            Another waste of time by prepared curriculum is that most of them spend an incredible amount of effort in teaching ideas which are not real.  Don’t believe me?  Look through your child’s reading book and see how many stories are fiction.  As a school teacher, I can remember entire reading texts which were solely based on fiction, with an occasional one or two page insert over something that was in the real world.  Yes, many children do enjoy fiction.  Fine, allow them to read fiction – with a particular emphasis on realistic fiction – for their own enjoyment.  However, it is a complete waste of limited educational time to learn about things which have nothing to do with reality.  Fiction is for enjoyment, not for educational purposes.  I will be writing other articles regarding this concept, as it cannot be fully addressed in one paragraph.  Suffice it to say, children should spend limited educational time learning about things around them, not about something a person somewhere made up.
            What should be taught in schools (whether public, private, or home)?  Concepts that are needed for a fulfilled life should be the focus of a truly valuable education.  Finances is a concept which is necessary for every adult, yet most high schools will work in one semester where it is taught, and then it us usually quickly brushed over by a teacher who is bored by the subject which he/she knows nothing about.  And yet, Dave Ramsey states that 70% of Americans cannot balance their checkbook.  Business should also be taught extensively, whether a consumer, producer, or distributor – everyone uses businesses in their daily lives.  Time should be spent understanding how they work.  Cooking and nutrition are also concepts which are only briefly worked into a full curriculum as only a short time, yet everyone should know how to cook basic foods and how to evaluate the nutrition of the food they are eating.  The subjects which are taught should be fundamental to life.
            Another concept which is frequently ignored by many prepared programs of study is developmental appropriateness.  This factor of development is not an issue in Junior High and High Schools, but in Elementary Schools, this is a vital element which is frequently ignored.  Many curricula will take a subject from Jr. High and divide the fundamental concepts into smaller “chunks,” which are then taught at a lower level.  Jean Piaget, a noted child psychologist and researcher of child development, says, “Children are not just little adults that have not acquired knowledge.”  He created a development theology that shows the cognitive development of children, concluding that children under the age of twelve actually think differently than adults.  I will write another article addressing this issue, as well.
            Teaching what is important or valuable should be the sole purpose of comprehensive educational programs.  Unfortunately, valuable, fundamental skills are normally ignored or only briefly addressed, and they are replaced with hundreds of objectives which are simply a waste of time.  In this blog, my goal is to give examples and philosophies which will help its readers to avoid the time wasting pitfalls and actually teach diamonds.

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