Monday, January 27, 2014

On being in school

Recent studies have shown that schools in Germany, in international comparisons, fare relatively well in terms of accomplishment, but lower in happiness.  There are schools in other nations that can boast both high scores and higher happiness.

And then there are people, mostly from the United States, with whom I associate online, who seem to dislike all sorts of formal education and "uncreative" practices.  They are the would-be radicals, though mostly, they themselves have enjoyed a good education.   Young people post Youtube videos that go viral about how they self-direct their learning.  They do more skiing and more sewing of parachutes, and so on...  Well, that's all good.  It should be an option for them.  I believe in diversity.

One difference between North American education and German education is that we used to go to school only for half the day.  So we managed to have higher achievement in less time.  This left ample time for "play" which everyone seems to bemoan as disappearing.  We played a lot.  We played in the street.  We played in the field.  We played cards in the house.  We played dress-up and we played dramatic play.  And we squeezed in our Latin vocabulary list.  And we squeezed in our English vocabulary list.  And we squeezed in our French vocabulary list.  (No fun memorizing, but time efficient to learn by rote. This left much room for real unstructured playing with no goals in mind.)  What is the missing ingredient in this sort of up-bringing nowadays is the mothers being at home.  Mothers supervised the homework.  Mother's glanced out the window to see that the outdoor play wasn't getting too wild or cruel.  But they just glanced.  They did not helicopter and they did not structure.  They also did not drive you places.  You could take the bike, or walk, or if lucky, could take the bus, if someone gave you bus money. -- We were not fat.

And for those who hate school, I just wanted to say that many of my happiest moments were in school.  In school you had girl-friends.  In school you had studies.  In school you had music and singing.  It was a marvelous time in many ways.  The best of times and the worst of times?  Yes, I often said that the Latin language ruined my childhood.  But I have to say in the end, in favor of the Latin language learning, that Latin is not a dead language.  It has come in very handy.  It lives in the English language.  It lives in the most fantastic sacred music.  It lives in scholarly journals and books.  It lives as a lingua franca, here and there, still. It has given me a leg up, at times, and not infrequently pleasure.  Translating it was the highest mental exercise I had in childhood, seeing how convoluted the sentences could get.

So much.  I was just contemplating, how often I was very happy in school.

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