The Missing Link in Education

May 16th, 2010 by elliedylan

Never before in history has there be so much discussion about the value of test results in improving student performance in American schools. This is not further discourse on whether these tests are an accurate metric for educational “success.”

Rather, it is intended to shed some much-
needed light on what can be done to assuage the ills currently plaguing the “education” of our young people today.

To perform well on ‘the tests’ many consider to be the benchmark of a child’s success in school, the student must demonstrate proficiency in core academic subjects (reading, math, science). The development of these core academic skills is often thought to be a result of rigorous drills in the intricacies of the subject matter: A teacher “instructs” the students on the requisite components needed to acquire demonstrable proficiency in the subject.

The students know their “job” is to learn. But many children find their job not only boring, but lacking meaning in a world where the rules, influences, and parameters are constantly changing.

So the students sit in class and the teacher “teaches.” And the students’ minds wander. Let’s examine why…

  1. Times have changed: This generation of “media babies” has grown up surrounded by media, often listening to music, chatting online with their friends, watching videos and playing games – all at the same time. They perceive the world in quick bursts of attention…and prefer it that way.
  2. They grow up quicker: Because they are “media babies,” they are exposed to more…earlier in life than previous generations. They see A LOT. And what they see isn’t all “good.” They see a lot of sex, violence, and broken values; financial turbulence, rampant materialism, divorce, alcoholism, drug use, war, corruption, and a lot more.
  3. They wonder where they fit in to it all: If they do what they see, will they fit in? Will their fears be calmed if they wear the right shoes or mimic some of the other behavior they see all around them?
  4. They wonder how school fits in to it all? “What’s the point of school, anyway? It’s boring to learn these things. Why should I? Why and how does it matter?” A teacher recently told me that her class was rated #1 in the state in academic proficiency but she felt like she’d been “pulling an elephant uphill” all year. Her students had “no inner motivation” no matter how much she tried to instill it in them.
    Why? Because the children knew they had to learn the facts to pass the tests. They didn’t understand how the information they were being asked to learn had value in their lives. So, they had no “inner” motivation to retain it.
  5. Educators and parents are searching for answers: Home schooling is growing. “Teaching to the tests” is increasing. More stringent standards are being mandated. “Cash incentives” are being instituted to pay students to learn. Yet there is a crisis in education.
  6. Where is the inspiration, the motivation, the excellence? One thing is certain: Many know it’s missing… In the work force, the biggest challenge is finding employees that have it. In commerce, it’s a rare find. In schools, it’s the missing link.
  7. How can education be made meaningful so that it works…to inspire and motivate excellence today and in the future? The old paradigm is to “teach down:” to measure and compare; To “instruct” as though the students are lacking knowledge and “drill” it into their brains. Psychologist Abraham Maslow called this “deficiency motivation”… fed by lack. Although it may accomplish the goal in a few, we must ponder and question if it really produces the desired result. Or is it the cause of many of the ills plaguing not only education but our world today?

The new paradigm is to “inspire up” or as Maslow called it “growth motivation,” fed not by lack, but by “potential.” Found not by measuring and comparing, but by seeing the infinite possibilities in every situation and inside every child.

Not one among us can truthfully deny that children have active and endless imaginations. They love stories, fantasy and play. They love music, color and joy. Must they leave it behind when they enter the school house and their “real education” begins?

No, I say. For it is the ticket, the way to connect it all together so that it makes sense and has meaning to our children, to us, and our world.

It begins on the INSIDE. Motivation and excellence come from within. They cannot be “instructed.” They must be inspired.

Only when our society realizes that MOTIVATION IS THE MISSING LINK in education can we begin to find solutions that inspire it. Let us begin now…the sky’s the limit!

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