Saturday, September 02, 2006

Poor Old Pluto

If you have one of those table top models of the solar system, you can just crack Pluto right off. Perhaps you can use it as a paperweight or something. Too small to be of significance, Pluto is being mourned by all of us who, if we remember nothing else from our elementary years, can rattle off the nine planets. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) bills itself the 'internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and any surface features on them'. And Pluto, cited by IAU for it's erratic behavior and small size, has been defrocked. Given my sometimes erratic behavior and small size, I wonder if I'm next?

I find it interesting that this has caused such a brew-ha-ha. Newsweek reported in it's September 4th issue that the opening of the Rose Center in 2000 with only eight planets depicted in their solar system exhibit resulted in "a flood of angry letters from second graders". Now, really, do you think that second graders initiated this protest? No, adults, reluctant to let go of the surety of the facts they were taught in school put them up to it. Knowing that what you know is exactly the truth is comforting, but not always the truth.

As a homeschooler, over the years one of the most prevalent of the many questions I'm asked about our lifestyle include "How do you know they're learning what they're supposed to?"
What they're supposed to learn decided by professional educators, not how they are to incorporate learning as a lifestyle. Education is often thought of something you attain, rather than something you live. Until we, as a culture learn to view education as a lifelong journey of discovery, rather than a list of Presidents and planets, our educational systems will fail to reach our greatest expectations.

Testing has become a big business, assuring parents that the children are being taught all the right things and how the school is doing. Even in Dr. Seuss' book Hooray for Diffendoofer Day, students shudder that they "must take a special test, To see who's learning such and such - To see what school's the best." Schools not doing well are sent to miserable Flobbertown. But Miss Bonkers assures the students:

You've learned the things you need
To pass that test and many more-
I'm certain you'll succeed.
We've taught you that the earth is round.
That red and white make pink,
And something else that matters more-
We've taught you how to think.

And of course, they lived happily ever after in Diffendoofer after passing the test and exceeding expectations. I can only feel sad, however, for all the Flubbertowners still memorizing the nine eight planets.

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