What education should really be about

Look, I’m neither a parent nor a teacher, but considering I’ve spent a lot of time in school (like we all did) and having the distance of 12 years to that now I’ve formed some basics about what I think that children should really learn.

What is school all about? — a personal case study

When I went to school it was mostly about facts! Math, Biology, Language, Sports, and so on. When I started elementary school in Germany we all started out with reading how to spell and how to read, the basics of math. I can’t remember much more of it but I do remember that some children learned quicker and some where what almost feels like left behind.

I’ve always been a quick learner, when I was interested in a topic. But it went so far as my teacher in elementary school wanted to have me send to a school for children with special needs as I just have been watching out of the window all the time. My luck was that he wasn’t able to grab me by my grades as I seem to still have had stored enough information (even though I wasn’t paying attention) to answer the questions I was asked.

My mom also tried to get me in school 1 year earlier. In Germany we start school around 6–7 years of age. My parents moved into another village so pre-school basically ended for me when I was five years old and my mother (oh wonder) thought I was a genius child and that I should start with elementary school 1 year earlier. Today, even though somedays I feel like my mother was right and on others I think I’m fairly regular, I still think that I would have benefitted from starting a year early, on one hand because I think I could have managed it much better and my school-career probably would have taken another path, but on the other hand because of the price I paid of neither being in school or in pre-school for a full year in an environment where I literally knew no one.

I was a troubled kid as well. I remember the first time wanting to not live and actively attempting to make that happen when I was six. There was so much more going on in my life than just the one year which impaired my socialisation skills, just to make a short round-up for you. Perhaps even that experience could have been prevented but that I am less sure of than my opinion about any other benefits I probably would have gotten by getting into school.

My school career — a overview of the german education system

…was just as troubled. I went to a boarding school after finished 4th grade elementary. That was literal hell for a year. Then I went to a middleschool.
In Germany we have four types of regular schools which attendance is defined by your grades. These are the different types in ascending order:

  • Sonderschule (for kids with special needs)
  • Hauptschule (5–9th grade, Kids beyond average, with bad grades — Hauptschul-degree)
  • Realschule (5–10th grad, Kids within average, with regular grades, perhaps some good ones and some bad once — Realschul-degree)
  • Gymnasium (5–13th grade, Kids above average, with mostly continuous good to very good grades; degree which allows you to visit university — A-Grade)

Then there is something called “Gesamtschule” which basically combines the last three above, where everyone attempts but students get assigned major topics according to their degrees, for example Math was devided by A1, A2 and B-classes. Every degree is possible at these schools defined by which sort of education you perceived.

I basically visited all of them. I started out in “Realschule”, then went Gymnasium-level in a “Gesamtschule”, back to “Realschule”, down to “Hauptschule”, then Sonderschule where I, special little me, managed to somehow make my “Hauptschul”-degree. I got my “Realschul”-degree visiting business school outside of the regular school system, had a year off and then managed to make my A-Grade when I was 23 years old (instead of the usual 19–20 years of age). A little rocky, to say the least!

What could I have learned? — Maybe special needs after all

I’ve always been one with a problem with attention. My social worker from the german CPS considered me ADHD and with all I know about me I basically am. To this day I am grateful to my mother that she refused to have me medicated, one of two things my mother actually did for me that were benefitial.
Later in life my mind went completely of the rails. I’ve made many experiences after school and as I am trying to be reflective and to improve myself I found myself realising that as easy as I actually am able to learn the little I do know about how to learn. I didn’t just not know anything about the how to learn, I didn’t know how to use that glorious machine that was naturally placed inside of my head to the most degree possible. Plain and simple: I didn’t know how to remember easily and how to think. Of course as anyone with ADHD tends to think the problems of someone with an attention-disorder are worse, the mind is worse in its incapability to stay on topic, compared to those not affected by this, but that doesn’t mean that those people have a so much easier time with learning and thinking involuntarily.
That’s basically when I learned (ironically) what we didn’t learn in school.

  • how to think
  • and how to learn

Why this matters? — Being able to learn over forced to learn facts

School doesn’t teach you to think. Neither does it teach you how to learn.

According to the first I have to make clear that it’s not about WHAT TO think, but HOW TO think. I can’t remember a single instance of anyone telling anything about the simple process of that there’s thinking going on inside of my head. I was given a quantum computer at birth but was left without an instruction manual so to speak. Not just that, I was surrounded by people (we all are) who are just as helpless and unaware of this “fact” that they never even had the idea that this might be something worth talking about.
I remember an instance when I was like three or four years old. One of my earliest memories. My dad had a PC and I was so curious about it. The keyboard had strange symbols on it and the buttons where pushable and whatever button I pushed it appeared magically on the screen. That was a moment where my dad could have taught me something, like the alphabet. But instead I remember him basically asking me if I knew already what those mysterious symbols where supposed to be and after I didn’t know it he didn’t take the chance to teach me (how the hell would I have been able to know it btw). I don’t know why and how but somehow it didn’t appear to him.

I can’t figure out why in this instance this example comes to mind. Perhaps that not even my father, who was most probably a genius (he was, while I still sometimes ask myself if I am) that ended up teaching himself 4 languages when he was over 50 years old.

My mother was kind of the same. I remember when I was 17 years old that my mom told me proudly that she has a photographic memory. She said she basically looks at stuff and saves it up like a photograph. But I can’t remember her mentioning this before or making an attempt to try to teach me this technique.

I don’t blame the two of them. The thoughts just never occured to them. I know they both did their best in raising me, I know they made a better job than their parents even though they still fucked up. And they provided me with experiences that I learned off if I ever should decide to get kids or take-on some sort of raising-responsibility.

So if not my parents in a world that particularly didn’t pay any attention of the possible necessity of ones need to get a manual for ones brain, how should the school place any importance to that topic. Schools are not for “thinking”, they are for “learning”, aren’t they.

So when we talk about “learning” here I think the school-system is to blame to some degree, or at least in a need to develop, to evolve. Now school is on a “What to learn”-basis. You have endless topics from important to unimportant (equals interesting to uninteresting subjectively from individual to individual, while it seems the more interesting a topic the easier it is to remember). But even though I do remember that at one point we talked about different learning strategies and I do remember we talked about it for a way too short period of time ironically I can’t remember when this took place, I can’t put my finger around a time-frame where it happened. Only thing certain is it was after elementary school and probably before I reach 11th grade.

I try to make the point here that for an institution which literally has learning as its objective it is much more unforgivable that they didn’t make the jump to “how to learn” than it is for parents, which might be the institution on “how to think” but are much less aware of it.

A conclusion

For a long time now I said schools don’t teach you how to remember, how to learn. And I’m right with that. Even though the essentials of reading and mathematics are as well important I actually do think that the schools main goal should switch at least during elementary school. There are many valuable tools you can use how to learn! I taught myself some memory-improving techniques in my early twenties and I still benefit from it, even though I don’t even really practice them as much as I could. And my thesis is as follows:

  • If schools go more in depth on how to learn and how to remember they coincidentally also go into the “how to think” territory.

To focus on this topic at an early age includes the teachers to make the children aware of their inner processes. Their thoughts. It starts confronting them on a conscious basis with this “quantum computer” we all are born with. I don’t talk about teaching elementary students about neurochemistry but placing an emphasis on a process which confronts them with a life-long accompanying side-effect of their existence which most only start to figure out themselves when they are lucky after they got thrown into the cold water of “adulthood” (whatever that might be). And doesn’t it make sense that a kid that knows how to learn and in this process has learned that it thinks will have it much more easy later on in school, when it gets confronted with all the stuff society deems necessary to know about?

I think in the end, observing how so many people I know (and me as well) basically learned most of what they’ll ever learn AFTER school, teaching themselves about topics they wanted to learn about while most of the information you get in school is basically never to be used again… maybe the reason for school should not to teach students what to learn but to best prepare them how to teach themselves and by that I mean how to save information as quick and as complete as possible. Because the less time we need to learn something the more time we can spend to use what we have learned!

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Anyways, thanks for making it this far, have a beautiful day, where ever you are.

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Away from politics more into stuff I feel like writing about with the hope to find myself in some topics. Join me on my travel to writers glory 😅