“What did you learn in school today?” a mom asks her son after school each day and receives the same nonchalant response, “I don’t know. Nothing.” The conversation is ritually cut off by a dismissive shrug of the boy’s shoulders. We send our kids to school for six hours a day and expect that they are learning what they need to but, what if they are not?
The first reading I assigned to my students this fall was Nicholas Carr’s “Is Google making us Stupid?” This essay became fairly prevalent around the net when it was first published but still continues to be an insightful look at the effect of modern day technology on society. I posed a question to my students as a follow up to this reading, “Are we creating technology or is technology recreating us?” I think this question boggled their minds for a number of reasons, the most shocking of which was the realization that they were complete strangers to be asked to think for themselves and develop their own ideas. At first I received blank stares, then a multitude of similar answers saying that “yes, we are.” This wasn't a yes or no question, it was an either or question so this response simply didn't answer the question at hand. That was when it dawned on me that they really had no clue where to begin. They knew how to write a summary. They knew how to write a compare/contrast of two or more subjects. They didn't know how to develop a thesis based on their own thoughts and ideas rather than what they had read. The answer wasn't
in the text they were reading. It was then that I realized the larger goal I had for these students was to teach them how to think, to develop their own ideas, to provide insight—to use their brains, if you will.
This is one of the overbearing concerns I have for the education provided in the 21st century. This is a dilemma that is not only present in writing but also in math, science, history and nearly every subject area. Students learn a progression of math from counting to addition, to multiplication to algebra and so on, so forth yet they are never taught how it all fits together. Way too often I hear students complain that they’re “never going to need this in real life.” Their brains are filled with formulas, rules, theories and facts to which they have never been taught what to do with. In essence, it has become a useless wealth of knowledge. We, as an entire community need to work to rectify this, to instill a stronger value in education and we at HEROES Academy have begun to strive for this. I aim to not only fill students with a larger base of knowledge but to introduce them to new subject concentrations and to deeper critical thinking. I seek to teach students to educate, to seek out knowledge and to understand the applications of what they are learning so they can continue to use the knowledge outside of a test or class. If we can provide students with all the tools and resources necessary to learn then they can and will truly excel in school and the reality of life after graduation.