Fun and Education?

This Slashdot story got me thinking about what education really should be, and what direction it is going. The Yahoo News story talks about sending children dumbed down summaries of classic literature via cellphone text message (meaning in 1337speak).

Should education be easy or fun?
That is the question. My answer is an unequivocal "NO!". Education serves a valuable purpose that goes beyond simply getting children to know the basics of reading, math, and such (back in the day geography and history could be added to this list, sadly not so today). Our school systems also exist to teach children to think, this necessarily means that they must be challenged. This is how their little brains grow more complex, this is how they learn how to reason, and to cope with new, and difficult, information. By dumbing this down we only hurt them, even if they are not happy at the time.

If children don't want to do something in the course of their early education, it should be forced on them. They need to learn to do tasks that they don't want to do, that challenges them. This is a skill that will come in handy later in life. Its called fortitude and perseverance, and as adults they will need to use them every day. Also they will learn the wonderful feeling of accomplishment when they finish a difficult task. They might even learn to forestall immediate pleasure for later and greater pleasure (how un-American!),

While its nice that teachers are focussing on keeping students amused, it seems that this focus has gotten more priority than the activity of learning now. Stop it. If a child doesn't like to persevere though the difficult task of becoming a better person, fail them. This is called operant conditioning. It works. If the parents bitch, tell them that it is part of their job (which they implicitly agreed to upon having children) to help their children learn the material too, and that these harsh standards are for the good of society and the child's future.

On a side, and closing note, schools are also not the place for socializing and moralizing children, even if this is a task that schools are more and more taking up. This focus belongs in the hands of the parents (and other institutions), and by forcing schools to do it makes them emphasize the important task of educating children less.

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