Education Without Imagination — The Music Teacher and The Math Teacher By Kenneth Nwabudike Okafor Blog – www.naijagraphitti.blogspot.com
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” — Albert Einstein On Science
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions” — Albert Einstein Whatever else is posted on this blog, this would rank in the top 5%. It is topical by a notch, seminal. In the post Three Boys Who Remained Curious, did you deduce the contributions of the parent(s) in shaping the boys learning curves and eventual creative / innovative outcomes or can you imagine such contributions they might have made (in case these roles do not appear so overtly)? The shaping and the outcomes of Turere, MacCready and Honda, as young boys, had everything to do with attentive parenting (and in the case of Turere, guardianship in part). Now parenting is one of those skills you figure out on the job. Parenting skills lessons are not common fare in this part of the world. What we would focus on in this post has everything to do with determined parenting and informed guidance – the urge, capacity and commitment to nurture another human being, through excellent grooming skills, to bring
children to their optimum capability. THIS RESPONSIBILITY SHOULD NOT BE COMMITTED TO CARELESS HANDS. Most of what any parent(s) require to raise a winning child or an accomplished human being cannot be done passively; painstaking work is the sole option. Naturally, this cannot happen if your time is oversubscribe with various tasks, or you are too laid back or you tend toward throwing money at issues – like hiring ‘helpers’ to do your child rearing. There is a growing trend back to the basics. There is, to take one instance, a current campaign now in United Kingdom – the Wild Network group, headed by the British National Trust is campaigning to get parents to spend more time with children. This blog hopes we have agreed on this point: IT TAKES PERSONAL COMMITMENT AND INTENSIVE HARD WORK TO RAISE A CHAMPION. Let us blog-leak this to you: CHILDREN RESPOND TO DEDICATED ATTENTION AND MULTI-DISCIPLINARY LEARNING MORE THAN MOST PARENTS REALISE. The sad part is that you may not know this until the damage is done. You can avoid this pitfall. When it concerns the elementary blocks of building the ability to create and innovate from early childhood (of course this is where early childhood education and child centred learning is advantageous) then some specific competencies help a child a long way. One of the first measures to take is to inculcate in your child the value of learning. Any child that grasps an understanding of the vitality of learning would outstrip his or her peers at whatever endeavour they set upon to tackle. This writer has discovered for the hone the complete stature and creative potential of any child, there ought to be a minimum of two distinct phases of tutelage: first is what I would term the "tool shed / play-learning phase" and the "curricula learning / formal schooling phase." Creativity lessons to children at an early age cannot be effectively taught outside of any child-centred style of teaching I have learned firsthand. This blog strongly recommends this method for the "home schooling part" of child development. Creativity and innovations are not core subjects; they actually are end-of-process outcomes which arise from the amalgamation of various experiences, exposure, knowledge, competencies and capacities built up over time. Of the whole lot, this blog would strongly argue in favour of the power of observation and problem solving / thinking as preeminent. Learned in formative years, these should be subsequently exercised, nurtured and sustained by life-long learning. The most important argument in favour of any parent(s) taking initiative on the child’s learning curve particularly on the basics of life skills and early childhood development can also be tendered as the most important reason why no academic system on the face of the
earth can help every child within the restriction of a classroom: EACH CHILD HAS HIS / HER PACE OF LEARNING. Educators and scholars have not figured a way around the puzzle of differentials in learning pace. Customised teaching yields the best outcomes; once there is more than one child then separate them for better results. This blog acknowledges the Montessori Method which is deployed to overcome this shortcoming. Dr Maria Tecla Artemesia Montessori (August 31, 1870 – May 6, 1952) was an Italian physician and educator best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name, and her writing on scientific pedagogy. Her educational philosophy and method is in use today in public and private schools throughout the world. Even with the Montessori Method, the teachers still face a hurdle managing 20 to 30 children per class. However, from the appraisals this writer has been involved in examining private schooling in Nigeria and from the limited literature available on the subject, there is a general tendency by the proprietors of private education to focus on the brightest students in order to boost the reputation of their schools among the education service buying public. Some do other things much worse that would be too appalling to mention here. Now this is not a new phenomenon. This writer would turn to the work of another educator to highlight this trend. The celebrated British educator, Edward Thring promoted a unique thinking. Thring, headmaster of Uppingham School in Rutland, England as well as founder of the Headmasters’ Conference in 1869, was educated at Eton College in Eton, Berkshire, England and King’s College, Cambridge, England where he obtained a Fellowship in 1844. The root-principle that distinguished Edward Thring teaching from what was current at the time was this: EVERY BOY IN SCHOOL, THE DULLEST, MUST HAVE THE SAME ATTENTION AS THE CLEVEREST. (Montessori also came to believe that acknowledging all children as individuals and treating them as such would yield better learning and fulfilled potential in each particular child.) At Eton, where he had been educated, and had come out First, he had seen the evil of the opposite system. The school kept up its name by training a number of men for the highest prizes, while the majority were neglected. He maintained that this was dishonest: there could be no truth in a school which did not care for all alike. Every boy had some gift; every boy needed special attention; every boy could, with care and patience, be fitted to know and fulfil his mission in life. Eton College, informally referred to as Eton, is a British independent boarding school located in Eton, near Windsor in England. It educates over 1,300 pupils, aged between 13 to 18 years and was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King’s College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor". So you can understand this was an upscale public school. Yet one of their best students in his time, Edward Thring, felt the teachers paid attention only to the best students. Is that not what lots of public and private schools are still doing today to enhance their reputation?
Since a big belief of Thring was that every boy was good for something, Edward Thringâ€™s early experience teaching Gloucester National elementary schools had convinced him that "to teach the slow and ignorant with success is the only test of proficiency and intellectual power." In addition to being a definite believer in teaching the classics, he broadened the overall curriculum at Uppingham by making sure that the moral, aesthetic, and physical aspects meet the needs of the students. As for the Montessori Method, from experience working with a programme in some states and with all my children having passed through private schools using this methodology, this writer come to the conclusion that many well-meaning private school proprietors adopt the name without fully adopting the precise depth of practice the good Italian Doctor recommended. This blog would offer only a brief history and appraisal based on field experiences in some donor funded programmes. Dr Montessori had many accomplishments with one being the Montessori Method which is a method of educating young children that stresses development of a child's own initiative and natural abilities, especially through practical play. This method allowed children to develop at their own pace and provided educators with a better understanding of child development. In Maria's book, The Montessori Method, she goes into further detail about the method. Educators in the field set up special environments to meet the needs of the students in three age groups: two and a half years, two and a half to six years, and six and a half to twelve years. The students learn through activities that involve exploration, manipulations, order, repetition, abstraction, and communication. The teacher is to encourage children in the first two age groups to use their senses to explore and manipulate materials in their immediate environment. Children in the last age group deal with abstract concepts based on their newly developed powers of reasoning, imagination, and creativity. Based on her observations, Montessori implemented a number of practices that became hallmarks of her educational philosophy and method. She replaced the heavy furniture with child-sized tables and chairs light enough for the children to move, and placed child-sized materials on low, accessible shelves. She expanded the range of practical activities such as sweeping and personal care to include a wide variety of exercises for care of the environment and the self, including flower arranging, hand washing, gymnastics, care of pets, and cooking. Also based on her observations, Montessori experimented with allowing children free choice of the materials, uninterrupted work, and freedom of movement and activity within the limits set by the environment. She began to see independence as the aim of education and the role of the teacher as an observer and director of children's innate psychological development. By 1912, Montessori schools had opened in Paris and many other Western European cities, and were planned for Argentina, Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Switzerland, Syria, the United States, and New Zealand. Public programs in London, Johannesburg, Rome, and Stockholm had adopted the method in their school systems. Montessori
societies were founded in the United States (the Montessori American Committee) and the United Kingdom (the Montessori Society for the United Kingdom). In 1913 the first International Training Course was held in Rome, with a second in 1914. In 1914, Montessori published, in English, Doctor Montessori's Own Handbook, a practical guide to the didactic materials she had developed. Critics had at one time charged that Montessori's method was outdated, overly rigid, overly reliant on sense-training, and left too little scope for imagination, social interaction, and play. All things considered, this blog hopes we can agree on another point: NOTHING IS AS DANGEROUS AS A HALF-HEARTED COPY OF AN IDEA, EVEN AN EXCELLENT IDEA. When that idea is over 100 years old, you can imagine. Developing appropriate materials for Montessori learning is expensive and requires specialist production. Dr Maria Montessori herself had developed, adapted and refined such range of materials she had developed over the course of several years at the Orthophrenic School (Scuola Magistrale Ortofrenica) in Italy, altering or removing exercises which were chosen less frequently by the children. In a country where educational materials are prohibitively priced you can only imagine the expense. So all parent(s) with pupil(s) in any school(s) hanging the tag "Montessori," you are in all probability paying for the name and not necessarily the recommended practice! If you want your child to blossom, can you guarantee that the music teacher would give the sufficient level of attention required out of so many other children in class? Can you assure that the math teacher is dedicated enough to observe your child is lost in the middle of so many others? You see math and music are both vital for the mind of the champion in the making. LET US NOT OFFER CHILDREN EDUCATION WHICH IS LACKING IN DEPTH, VARIETY AND IMAGINATION.
Notes: 1. Insights from the fieldwork between 2004 and 2013 of 3 national NGOs and 2 Consultancy firms 2. Encyclopaedia Britannica
Let us not offer children education which is lacking in depth, variety and imagination.