Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Importance of the Knower: Consciousness-Based Education and the Learner

Let me start with an experience from my own education.

My senior year in high school (about 40 years ago), I took an Advanced Placement course in English and scored high enough on the final exam that I didn't have to take a basic English expository writing class in college, receiving college credit for the AP course.

I was happy about this at the time, but as I continued my college education, I came to the realization that it would have been better for me as a learner to have taken an excellent writing course in high school (and the course I took was excellent) and then to have also taken the course in college.

The reason? Even if the courses were exactly the same, I was not the same person--and therefore my learning experience would have been different. And this doesn't even take into account that I would be covering the same information twice instead of once.

Our experience changes us, and the experience of a student 16-18 years old is not the experience of a student even two or three years older. Those years of living have their impact. The change of environment from a high school campus to a college campus has its impact. Being in a classroom with older students has its impact.

The New York Times recently published an article entitled "High School Classes May Be Advanced in Name Only."

Journalist Sam Dillon's premise is that a highfalutin course title does not necessarily mean a course is of greater academic rigor:
Even though students are getting more credits in more advanced courses, they are not scoring any higher on standardized tests.

The reason, according to a growing body of research, is that the content of these courses is not as high-achieving as their names — the course-title equivalent of grade inflation. Algebra II is sometimes just Algebra I. And College Preparatory Biology can be just Biology.
 My experience of over thirty years as an educator is that this view of education is the most effective: A student studies British literature in high school, reading Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, the Romantic poets, the Victorian novelists, and what have you. Then in college, the student takes a British literature survey course and reads Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, the Romantic poets, the Victorian novelists, and what have you.

Boring? Repetitive? Not if one considers the situation not from the perspective of the learner. Having been introduced to a subject in high school, a student is much better prepared to study and learn that subject more intensely in college--as a more mature and experienced learner.

Are we to not teach American history in high school because students have had exposure to that subject in 6th and 8th grades? Starting college early and saving money are two reasons why the start-college-in-high-school philosophy has taken hold. And I'm all for challenges and frugality. The purpose of education, though, is to learn, not just have a transcript that says you've learned. Taking into account the readiness of the learner is crucial to the educational process.

I teach at a school that specializes in Consciousness-Based education. At Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, the faculty and staff practice the Transcendental Meditation program. Not only is the school and its faculty providing knowledge to the students, the program seeks to expand the capacity of the learner to learn, to expand the container of knowledge. Research indicates that this is a powerful means of teaching and learning.

My experience of having taught at Maharishi School for the last six years is that students at this school are more curious, more willing to learn. Their inner experience leads to what I would call a more graceful experience of adolescence. Practicing the TM technique enriches the teaching and learning experience, increases receptivity.

It does not change the fact, though, that 14-year-old students or 16-year-old students are still fourteen or sixteen years old. Students still pass through their natural developmental levels, but the experience is, in my opinion, a "kinder, gentler" one.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said the following: "'Tis the good reader that makes the good book."

And it is an enlightened student that receives an enlightened education. Education in the classroom is an academic experience. Growing up is a series of experiences. The Transcendental Meditation program and Consciousness-Based education enhance and enrich that natural evolution of the growing child.

Let's not confuse the cart with the horse, the course title with the course, or the curriculum map with the learning.

Certainly we must improve the educational process. Let's just remember that it's a natural process and allow time for that process to occur naturally.

Copyright 2011 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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