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Education as a form of Entertainment.

(10 Posts)
clarlce Sat 16-Jul-11 15:02:46

In 'Amusing Ourselves to Death', the author, Neil Postman writes -

'I refer first to the fact that television’s principle contribution to educational philosophy is the idea that teaching and entertainment are inseparable. This entirely original conception is to be found nowhere in educational discourses, from Confucius to Plato to Cicero to Locke to John Dewey. In searching the literature of education, you will find it said by some that children will learn best when they are interested in what they are learning. You will find it said – Plato and Dewey emphasized this – that reason is best cultivated when it is rooted in robust emotional ground. You will find some who say that learning is best facilitated by a loving and benign teacher. But no one has ever said or implied that significant learning is effectively, durably and truthfully achieved when education is entertainment'.

Is the Sesame Street style of learning, that is now the standard model in all primary schools, actually helping our children? Sure most of them learn what they need to learn by the time they begin to find work but is their attitude to education (at this stage, after formal schooling, educating themselves) too light-hearted? And that as a result they loose interest in subjects that really need a serious level of commitment and attention.

For example - Climate Change and Soil Depletion are 2 major issues all people should be concerned with today. How many of us, let alone our adolescent children, are prepared to read about these subjects to any great depth, looking at both sides of the argument etc?

Are we forever destined to make important political decisions based entirely on what our leaders and social commentators say - what we read in the newspapers? And is the reason for this intellectual laziness the fact that, whilst the subject matter was fun and colourful in school (penguins falling off melting ice-burgs etc.) as grown-ups its dull and laborious, requiring nothing more than mental grit to wade through it all and make an informed decision.

Another point to add weight to the point - The Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858, concerning slavery, were held in seven states across America. At one address, in Illinois, Douglas delivered a 3-hour address followed by a 4 hour reply by Lincoln. This was not an unusual situation, the two men were accustomed to much lengthier debates. The audience was not made up exclusively of the intellectual elite of the day but common citizens and business men and women to whom the subject matter affected them greatly. Could the average citizen endure a discussion as lengthy as this today?

IndigoBell Mon 18-Jul-11 21:24:09

Not only is education meant to be entertainment for the kids - from what I can gather from reading TES it's also meant to be fun for the teachers.

ie if the teachers aren't having fun they don't want to teach. And a vast number of them do seem to believe that it is necessary for the class to be fun for the kids.

AFAIK the research does not back up that you have to be having fun to learn something.......

MoreBeta Mon 18-Jul-11 21:33:29

Its an interesting and complex issue. I can't rememeber lessons being fun at school but the best lessons gripped the imagination and stimulated the mind.

I do think that the wider issue of how we train our childrens' mind to learn has to be explored more. In essence the author has raised a flag of concern that 'fun' lessons delivered in 'bite sized' pieces that don't require effort or hard work to digest is training a population to never scratch below the surface on any subject.

Climate change is something I strongly feel is very badly taught and deliberatley presented in a skewed way to children. Never allowing or asking them to question the dogma. I try very hard with my own children to get them to question what they have been taught on this subject and other environmental issues.

I worry that dumbing down in our society in wide areas of eductaion and media undermines the population's ability to question and hold its leaders to account.

practicallyimperfect Mon 18-Jul-11 21:37:11

I don't think all my lessons need to be fun. Engaging and helping them remember and learn. Some of my lessons are straightforward and boring. But just reading or listening isn't the best way to learn.

I went to a Russell Group Uni and did role play and fun stuff as part of the learning. I did my PGCE at Cambridge University and the same applies there.

IndigoBell Mon 18-Jul-11 21:37:38

I worry that dumbing down in our society in wide areas of eductaion and media undermines the population's ability to question and hold its leaders to account.

Sounds awfully like the plot of about 100 science fiction books. sad sad sad

wordfactory Tue 19-Jul-11 08:30:34

I think there is a definite issue of trying make everything too interesting when we all know that getting to grips with some essential things is just well...tedious.

I'm with Betadad that this might produce good little exam passers but it doesn't make to intelligent, creative, challenging thinkers.

In addition I think the advent of multi media in our homes has not helped. I know for a fact that when my children are in front of a screen they aren't talking and questioning. However when we play table tennis, go for a work, drive to th shops or whatever, my ears are soon bleeding with the chatter and my mind whirs with the endless questions.

robingood19 Tue 19-Jul-11 14:45:30

At the mundane level. Most good teachers of my time were part entertainers. It was usually men in my day who did a turn whilst teaching

freerangeeggs Tue 19-Jul-11 16:04:32

It depends what you mean by 'fun'. Pupils can be engaged and motivated without playing games/jumping around/using PCs etc. They can be happy to complete even the most boring, repetitive tasks and get satisfaction from them if they feel like they're progressing.

For example, my partner has a bottom set maths class who love completing worksheets. They do piles of them and they love it. They like it because they can see that they're learning and they're pitched at the right level.

I think there is a misunderstanding in teaching that centres around 'active learning'. Many teachers seem to think that active learning requires the children to be active - playing interactive games, moving around the classroom etc. That's not what active learning is - you can have active learning when working silently from a textbook. It just means that the child is engaged.

Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed history lessons because my teacher was a fantastic storyteller and I still remember the things he taught me.

Rarily Wed 20-Jul-11 11:16:22

My dad was a primary school teacher in central Liverpool in the seventies and eighties. I went in to watch him teach year 3 children. He'd resisted putting the children onto tables because he felt they couldn't concentrate that way. He had special concern for the children who struggled. In the afternoons they did some form of craft, but the mornings were reading, writing and some maths. I saw a class of 35 children in silence, working on worksheets he'd made for them. The silence was fantastic and was filled with learning and each child was working to their best. I'm not sure if it would be described as fun, but the children looked like they enjoyed it and they certainly demonstrated satisfaction at their work. There was no sense of oppression, he told stories at other times that they loved, they loved the afternoons. Like you say freerangeeggs studying quietly can be active, and I do now see classrooms filled with conversations that often detract from learning. I now teach myself in HE and sometimes get my students to read and work silently (I'm in an ex poly, and many of my students are not high flyers) with around a 100 in the room and once we come to discuss what they found difficult etc, they are very engaged. Anyway, going on a bit here, but these are the thoughts that have come to mind with some nice memories!

inkyfingers Wed 20-Jul-11 20:41:58

It's very hard to make learning deep and thoughtful if taught via entertainment which inevitably is light, superficial and given in short bursts.

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