Issues in Education: student-centered or knowledge-centered?

Issues in Education: student-centered or knowledge-centered?

I recently read two articles that brought an important point to my attention: although emergent curriculum is respectful to children’s personal learning processes, knowledge-based curriculum can and should be used to support the development of life and thinking skills we aim at in our schools. Being connected and informed makes a world of difference in a teacher’s choice of culturally meaningful facts that are worth studying in the proportion that the children can generalize and relate them to multiple situations.

If as a teacher I simply do away with the teaching of facts or with the teacher-chosen books, I rob my students from the chance to get to access really cool, important, enriching knowledge.

While I read the texts I began to question my own actions and daily thoughts that concern making life easier. The fact that education for a long time was massively knowledge-centered created almost a reactive movement of banishing knowledge altogether. When I first got in contact with the child-centered approach, I was infatuated with it, so different from my experience as a student, and so considerate with the learner’s needs and desires. Recently, however, I have been clearing up the air around me and managing to bring ideas together to formulate what I see as a balance. I came to realize we do not always need to reject one philosophy to embrace the other: my ideal education now is about both/and rather than either/or – in all aspects.

Although sometimes I am convinced there is no need to go about things the hard way, I suspect that taking the easy way dumbs us (and our students), after all, the brain is a muscle that needs exercise to keep fit.

This week I heard that ‘dodge ball’ was banished from schools because kids got hurt. How many times does a soccer player get hurt before he makes it to the world cup? The old ‘no pain no gain’ idea makes sense in sports as well as in language and in learning to a broader sense.

I often hear American Kindergarten teachers say that English is a complex, difficult language full of exceptions. Well… I have noticed that EVERY language has its difficulties and exceptions, and still people learn them. Instead of not teaching grammar because it is difficult, and instead of getting rid of the accents (in Portuguese, French or Spanish) because they make language complicated, our role as teachers is to help our students develop the tools to deal with these challenges. The languages I know that derive from Latin would be a lot less rich with fewer variations, and so would English.

Good writers are so because they explore language. We must allow our students the same advantage by giving them material to expand their repertoire.

Manzo, K.K. (2008). Learning Essentials. Educatio Week. Vol 27, No. 39. (May, 2008) pp. 1-4
Hirsch, Jr., E.D., (2008) Plugging the Hole in State Standards. American Educator (Spring, 2008) pp. 8-12.

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