That slight tell-tale, just a whisk of coolness in the breeze, tells us we stand on the brink of the end of another summer on the East End. The barbecue section at Target in Riverhead was replaced with school supplies weeks ago, as if to remind kids, early on, that summer has to end.
What does their return to school really mean? Will they be filing into classrooms like zombies for another year of mind-numbing Common Core tests and long hours of memorizing facts, without having any idea how they are related? Will they be sitting through periods of video presentations with the lights out so they can catch up on sleep?
When did a lunch period in high school become optional?
Are kids learning how to learn, or are they learning how to get by in a political system that rewards the most by-the-book teachers and reprimands the most creative for not strictly following the curriculum?
However you look at it, and however your children might react to it, it’s plain to see that education as we knew it is on the rocks in the digital age.
Researchers recommend that children under the age of six receive no more than one hour per day of digital information in the form of games, surfing, or phone use, but everywhere we see parents hard-put to refrain from using cell phones to quietly distract their children — in strollers, in restaurants, or stores and during grown-up conversations.
Older children have such a facile use of technology that in most cases they are way ahead of their teachers in their ability to find information and use it to their own best advantage. When they want to learn something, they know just where to find it.
What seems to be missing for kids, in some cases, is the ability to interact with others, communicate clearly, and feel like they are a part of something.
Sports and the arts have traditionally provided a means towards socialization, but lately it seems like, for many students, this isn’t happening, either because the arts have been cut in order to focus on the core subjects or because parents are working too hard and too long to be able to provide the support these ‘extracurricular’ activities require.
It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to be a student, in a classroom, in the information age, as all semblance of traditional education techniques fall away with the chalk dust and the blackboard. We can’t really believe that SMART Boards are smart replacements for these earlier tools.
What we need to do is to ask the students what they need and let them have a hand in designing their own learning methods. This is being done in some of the alternative schools that are cropping up as parents search for a better education for their children.
One in five families refuse to take part in the current Common Core system. Finding a way to get beyond the Common Core is indeed part of the problem-solving that needs to be going on around the public education system that is still in place. And, after all, isn’t problem-solving a big part of what we all want our children to be able to do?