Why Do Children and Schools Fail?
February 20, 2010
Why Do Children and Schools Fail?
The question I will attempt to answer within the context of “Brain-Based Learning” is “why are children and schools failing?” This very broad based question cannot be answered within a single context. There are various reasons why children fail to learn. There are neurological learning disabilities, psychological disorders, social pressures and distractions, study habits, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, and alcohol and drugs. Within the context of brain-based learning the first thing to look at is motivation. Why are students not motivated to learn? We have a tradition that has been defining teaching for the last one hundred years. A definition that is not limited to K-12 it extends into college. Many students do not know that they have the right to ask for anything other than what they are given. For the most part, they are the products of years of experience in schools where they were essentially told to sit down, shut up, listen, and learn - an experience that taught them that the teacher is the source of all knowledge and that learning is something magically injected into them at some point without their awareness. They rejected that voodoo education then, and they will reject it again. (Luce, 1990, para. 9) Learners whether they are in elementary school, secondary school or college have needs that are not being fulfilled. They want their individual needs met. They want teachers who recognize and treat them as human beings. Teachers who care about them, not just their test scores. They want to learn within modes that fit their own learning style. They want to be in an environment where they can learn from their peers. They want clear, complete explanations. They want the opportunity to have their questions answered. (Luce, 1990) Researchers have studied the issue of motivation.. Conclusions reached from the research points to the issue that school, as an organization, tends to discourage active engagement in its activities and offerings. Youth experiences organized school activities as unilaterally thrust upon them, not as a set of learning activities negotiated to the satisfaction of both student and teacher. In the school system youth must comply with the rules of school and yield to the requests of adults who derive authority from the organization. Learners do not set the agenda. The curriculum is not adjusted because the learners want changes. There is a curriculum to be covered and standards to be met. (Steinberg, Parmar, & Richard, 2006, para. 4) The curriculum and its presentation leading up the test do not address the emotional and psychological development of the learner. Students often do not see the relationship of the material to “real life.” Gardner’s concept of multiple intelligences does not play a part in the traditional curriculum generated approach to teaching and learning. The learner is expected to take notes, read the assigned material and take the test. The material does not motivate the learner and the learner has no reason to be motivated. There are other factors connected to and separate from motivation that influences a child’s learning ability. Brain-based learning may be a solution for some of these psychological and even neurological learning disabilities. Recent studies document dramatic increases in the use of psychotropic medications (drugs that work on the brain) to treat children, including children younger than 5 years old. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found a 3-fold increase in the use of methylphenidate (Ritalin) for 2- to 4-year-olds between 1991 and 1995. While that amounts to only 11.1 children per 1000 taking the drug in 1995, the rate of growth is striking as the drug carries a warning against use in children under 6. Another study found a 10-fold increase in the prescription...
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