It may seem cliché, but we are all born with a unique set of gifts. Each of us is distinct from one another with different genes, cultural upbringings and life experiences. Moreover, we all have our own interests, passions and value that we can offer the world. No one quite sees or interprets things like we do.
Rather than inspiring authenticity and creativity, our education system seems to do the opposite. Motivated by well-intentioned ambitions to standardize learning and increase test scores, schools can often inadvertently take the inherent joy out of learning. Standardized testing promotes conformity and diminishes the limitless imagination of children. We are taught to think the same, to stay within a confined set of boundaries.
Education becomes mechanical, a cookie-cutter or ‘one-sized’ fits all model. The late education scholar Ken Robinson compares the school system to an assembly line in a factory.
Ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects. We still educate children by batches, you know, we put them through the system by age group. Why do we do that? Why is there this assumption that the most important thing kids have in common is how old they are? You know, it’s like the most important thing about them is their date of manufacture.
If we want to respect the unique gifts of students, our education needs to be flexible and adaptable. It must aim to cultivate and celebrate the different kind of learning styles of students. The issue is that the current model of education places a high emphasis on a narrow and limited kind of intelligence, academic ability. If a student does not score well on tests and receive high grades, we tend to view them as unintelligent.
But how about if the problem isn’t the student, but rather the school’s outdated ways of assessment?
The Harvard professor of education Howard Garner argues that there is a broader range of human abilities that go beyond those which can be measured in a standardized test. Howard notes that there are at least eight forms of intelligence which capture the full scope of human potential. These include: linguistic, logical, spatial, bodily, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic.
Rather than, creating one type of evaluation for all, Garner’s theory implies that teachers should adapt their learning styles to the unique needs of their students. This requires teachers to be more cognizant of the diversity of their students, and to adapt their teaching styles to ensure it captures the various developmental needs of their class.
Like many, I have memories of cramming for exams only to forget the material of the subject a couple days after. Would my time have been better served by other modes of assessment which allowed me to apply and internalize the information I learned in more engaging ways?
In my view, the primary aim of education should be to instill a love of learning in the student. To allow an individual to satisfy their curiosity and imagination. When we are given the right tools and instruction from our teachers, we become immersed and passionate about the material we are studying. We look willfully engage with the material and look for new solutions and novel ways to apply what we’ve learned.
The individuals who inspire me personally are those who think differently, who look at the world in unique and innovate ways. Those who challenge the status quo, and risk being looked at as ‘strange’ or ‘weird’ by the public. Thinkers like Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin may have performed poorly in school, but each would revolutionize their respective fields in innovative ways. Making your own path and going against the grain enables society to move forward. As the inventor and physician Edward de Bono notes,
There is no doubt that creativity is the most important resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.
Education therefore should aim to inspire, cultivate our unique gifts and allow us to reach our full potential as human beings. This not only will benefit students but also society as a whole as we reap the rewards of the creativity of others.
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