The joy of learning, and is history bunk?

Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646 to 1718).  Shortly to become a household name?

It makes a considerable change to read something in the media that supports new ways of thinking about education:

“We want young people to become independent and capable, yet we structure their days to the minute and give them few opportunities to do anything but answer multiple-choice questions, follow instructions and memorize information. We cast social interaction as an impediment to learning, yet all evidence points to the huge role it plays in their psychological development.
We have tried making the school day longer and blanketing students with standardized tests. But perhaps children don’t need another reform imposed on them. Instead, they need to be the authors of their own education.”

It’s just a pity that the item comes from the New York Times, and not a UK newspaper…
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/opinion/15engel.html

Meanwhile, here’s another enlightened comment from a blog:

http://ortals.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/want2learn/

“Had an interesting conversation with my 11th grade daughter about her young brother’s joy of learning. She said to me: “His joy is clear to me. We, human beings, love to learn like we love to eat and breath. When a baby is born the first thing he does is breath, then eat, then learn. How else would we get to sit, stand, walk and talk??”. Then she went on to explain that schools actually kill this natural instinct by creating limits and frames and rules that disrupt the natural evolvement of learning abilities and skills.

My daughter thinks one of the reasons she survived 11 years of school and still loves to learn is because she has created, in her mind, a total separation between “learning” and “schooling”.”

However, in contrast was an article in yesterday’s London Times (no link available I’m afraid) about the proposed revised History UK National Curriculum. Ignoring contemporary history all together, it’s based around the Renaisance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the American and French Revolutions. As such I would suggest it’s totally undeliverable as it has no immediate relevance to pupils’ lives whatsover. I just hope one day its author, Niall Ferguson (who lectures at Harvard) has to stand in front of a class of 16 year-old inner-city kids and teach them about ‘The Enlightenment’.

Example test question cited in the article : ‘Which is the odd one out: Locke, Hume, Leibniz, Mill or Voltaire?”  Well, of course I know you can spot the answer immediately, but just in case you can’t, it’s Leibniz, who was a rationalist, whereas the others were empiricists…. It’s always so obvious when you know the answer isn’t it?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottfried_Leibniz

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