Insult to Intelligence

A child is naturally curious and interested in exploring about things that he does not know. Complex and unknown things are the ones that interest him (and us). We are interested in mysteries, conspiracy theories, adventure, drama, and are amused by the unexpected, stupendous, super-natural or sci-fi. We insult his intelligence by thinking that he can not understand complex things. We think that the only way to teach him is to progress from simple to complex. First drill in him simple concepts. He will only understand complex concepts, once he has mastered the simple things. This is an insult to the intelligence of a child because the child has proven through his mastery of his mother tongue that he learns from complex to simple. Parents start talking to him naturally, with full sentences much before when he could say a single word. They talk to him, sing to him using natural language. Any computer scientist will tell you that one of the most complex problems that computers have addressed is natural language processing. Within one to two years most children have started using the natural language. We also see the attempt of the kid to stand, walk, climb and now use mobile. All these phenomenon when studied reveal that the child is progressing from complex to simple and not the other way round.

However, when our teaching content progresses tediously and painstakingly from simple to complex, when week after week and month after month it keeps on lingering on what the kids have already seen, they loose their interest, and hence their curiosity, wonder and their natural ability to learn. Then we are forced to employ unnatural and forceful ploys to engage their attention. Schools then have to resort to bribes, threats or humiliation:

(i) bribe through grades, happy-face, stars, awards, and presents, or

(ii) threat through F-grades, failure, detention, loss of previliges, loss of access to recess/playground, or

(iii) humiliattion by throwing them out of the class, making them stand, made fun of, labeling, and scape-goating.

We now equate good schooling with excess of these three elements. We can not envision a school environment which does not have these three things and still be considered good. We think that a student is not studying unless his tears are running down his cheeks, he is fearful, silent, and crying.

All of these techniques are useless and are not necessary had we designed our content from complex to simple. Let the student move to the deeper and deeper level of the details. He would do this by himself if we can show him that the mystery that he unravels is going to be exciting and will prepare him to unravel and explore more mysteries. The duty of a teacher then becomes more of a facilitator when she guides the child in this unraveling of the mystery and pointing out the fundamental principles that the kid needs to remember.

This is the essence of project based learning.