Weaning Ourselves From Research

It saddens me to see the world move closer and closer towards research and revere it as if it were the answer to everything. I equate it to a cancer that has now even taken over even my child's education. I'm pretty sure you too have been lured to think research-based anything is also the way, but before you turn your head let's question why we think research is important? In a very simplified set of reasoning....it must be because most people want 100% assurance that learning is happening in classroom.....we've all heard about the bottom line; are kids learning what they are being taught? But in trying to frantically assure ourselves of the content in our child's brains, we have undone a few golden nuggets of hundreds of years of when education existed without the assurance of research . For starters, the trust we have in teachers and in teaching has been lost. Teachers are bombarded with professional development sessions weekly because they are not trusted to know what they know. Two, we now operate from a fear-based model and have abandoned teaching our children flexibility. Last, we have parsed out learning into units of information, disconnected from one another and thereby taking away the magic of their connection to each other.

Research has broken the creativity and stripped away and invalidated the inner knowledge of teachers. Teachers become teachers because they notice they work well with children and so they are already blessed with knowing how to communicate information to a young mind. Teachers use to be able to have an innate knowledge of their child population and were allowed to come up with creative ways to transmit that knowledge based on that specific population's needs. Now, teachers are handed down systems and programs that often do not fit their populations. These programs are labeled research-based and teachers trust less and less in their own inner research of their population.

Research is a fear-based approach. We fear that if the child is not given 100% proven methods success will not be assured later in life or that somehow they will not be successful in their path. How incredibly stupid and absurd! In the Buddhist philosophy you learn that the cessation of pain and suffering does not happen through control, instead, it happens through letting go and learning to assimilate life events into our life. In my own life experience I have suffered greatly as a young child, anyone would shudder at hearing all I have gone through at a young age. Yet, I have used all my negative experiences growing up to make myself stronger. So if what we want for our children is success, should we not be teaching flexibility instead? No one can control what happens in later life at all so trying to research things to death to assure us of 100% anything is a lost cause. I reward my children for being flexible and allowing small disappointments to teach them about how what we consider tragedies may not always be surrounded with pain. Tragedies and suffering are opportunities for being broken open as human beings and if we stop operating with fear of what might happen we might actually see that even in the deepest of tragedies light shines through.

My 5 year old son who cannot write or read yet is being taught about question marks. I do not doubt in the future , maybe in 2 years, this information will come in handy, but teaching a non-writing child about a punctuation mark is as important as teaching him how to do Morse code. I of course do not blame the teacher, I blame the people on the very top who make these decisions about my child; they do not have the right perspective to be making these decisions. In buying into research-based programs we have abandoned the research we ourselves do as teachers in the classroom by observing our own kids. We have also abandoned our trust in our own judgements as we evaluate their needs. In being forced to superimpose these foreign programs and ideals created by" researchers" who probably work in antiseptic offices far, far away from REAL kids and bringing them into our classrooms we face a conflict of huge proportion. Disconnectedness is bound to happen when too many systems float around in one classroom; how can it not. None of this information will matter to a child unless it's taught in the context of his own world and I do not need research to know this. As a nation, as parents and as educators we need to forcibly insist on education being holistic and always somehow intimately connected to our child's lives. I want my children to love learning and when education is parsed out into disconnected bullets of knowledge it looses it's magic. I will never forget a lesson learned in graduate school. My professor gave me a xerox copy of an apple and told me to tell her all the apple facts I could come up with based on the information I was given; obviously not much information could be derived from a picture of an apple. Next, she gave me a real apple and a butter knife and told me to write down about apples.

We do not need years of research to tell us what we already intimately know about the way we learn. I urge teachers to trust their minds and their love in children and that is the most powerful "program" you can buy (into). I urge parents to fight for their children and to question systems that teach children disconnected pieces of knowledge. In the urge to get to the finish line first, schools are sacrificing the magic of childhood; our child's childhood. Think, and question why it's so important to read at a certain age? Does a child who learns to read at 4 have a more successful life? Will it assure happiness in later life? Why have we become so frantic about memorization? Question whether your child knowing their alphabet sounds really spells out a more successful or happy adult? Should not the love of learning and the love of satisfying our creative and intellectual curiosity be the driving force behind our child's education? None of these issues were important to me before I had kids, but now that I have children these issues take center stage. This is my child and I want him to love learning. That will not happen is he's taught about things that have no connection to his life now. I am disappointed to see so few parent and teacher advocates on this issue. We have come to a point where we no longer question or investigate. We look at the numbers and trust them. "Oh, this is a 10 school, they must be doing something right". Or, "this is a 2 school, they must suck". Think....but WHO is evaluating and what criteria are they using?

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