Teaching Children - the Old Way!

Mon, 23 Jul 2012

Common sense, though sadly lacking in today’s society, ought to teach us that the production of a generation of self-seeking unemployables tracks back to the way they have been taught.

An article in the Australian newspaper caught my eye this week and warmed my heart. It told of one bright young school teacher in Sydney who does have sufficient common sense to kick over the politically correct traces that restrain so many of her peers in their teaching methods, and revert back to the method that teachers once so successfully employed to educate the young. Hers are the methods once used to instruct generations that built the largest single empire in human history and the once most powerful single nation on Earth.

The headline of this article told a story in itself: “Lips shut, backs straight, eyes down: How keeping still is a learning experience.”

I could have shouted “Yes!” in total endorsement of that statement.

The article continued, “Still bodies, busy brains sums up the teaching approach taken by Roula Dunkerley in her classroom.

“Her composite class of Years 1 and 2 students at Brookvale Public School in Sydney’s north is notable for its calm and quiet atmosphere—not characteristics usually associated with a group of 22 six- and seven-year-olds.”

It’s a long time since I’ve had the warm and fuzzies when reading an article on the Anglo-Saxon education systems. The example of this bright young woman set me aglow.

“Ms. Dunkerley believes part of her job is to teach her young students the art of sitting still, concentrating and working on one’s own—skills often overlooked in today’s classrooms.”

That made me feel like jumping out of my seat and shouting to the world, “Go Ms. Dunkerley!”

What a brave lady! To swim against the tide of thought-control that has devastated our methods of teaching the young since that horrible age of social disruption in the 1960s!

But, lo and behold, Ms. Dunkerley is not alone. The article in the Australian mentions,

Dr. [Megan] Watkins, a senior lecturer in education at the University of Western Sydney, said certain habits and skills such as sitting at a desk and holding a pen correctly, and working independently made aspects of learning easier.

“School isn’t just about teaching kids mind skills; it’s also about teaching their bodies,” she said.

“Different types of learning require different forms of embodiment, different ways the body has to perform to be effective.

“There’s a certain discipline involved in academic endeavor, but it flies under the radar because people assume it’s natural. But kids have to learn … how to sit still, to concentrate on something for an extended period, and work by themselves.”

Just as we thought that Spockism had destroyed all common sense in child education back in the ’50s and ’60s, and the dregs plowed into the dust by an age of feminist, leftist, socialist tripe during the following decades, common sense shines brightly from a couple of enlightened minds Down Under!

It turns out that the poor benighted Victorians were correct all along when it came to getting it right in the education of their youth.

“Ms. Dunkerley also teaches her class the bodily habits they need to develop: backs against their chairs, fists between their tummies and the table, feet on the ground, heads up and not too close to the desk. ‘It’s very important, otherwise the body starts to ache,’ she said. ‘If they’re leaning all over the table with their head down, I think they tend to drift off. Having a still body and a body that’s upright and erect but still comfortable is really important for writing, and I make sure when they’re using their pencil that they can take their fourth finger off the pencil to ensure their grip is not too tight’” (ibid).

Aaah! What a woman! Talk about back to basics. If only the movers and shakers in education would take note! Even more so, if only parents would take note!

“Meddle not with them given to change,” the wise man said (Proverbs 24:21). So we meddled, and what a mess we’ve made of the postwar generation!

Quoting an education syllabus from a time when Britain, its dominions and the United States led the world in the highest of education standards, the Australian observes (emphasis added throughout):

The 1922 English syllabus in [New South Wales, Australia] says education is grounded in ‘the formation of habits; muscle and nerve habits, thought habits and emotional habits,’ with the school and the teacher bearing responsibility for a child acquiring these abilities.

“Habit-forming is an important part of education and its laws should be observed in all teaching,” it says.

By 1974, the term “habit” had disappeared from the syllabus, and teaching was replaced with “opportunities” for learning.

The post-1974 result of removing the need to instill right behavioural habits in children speaks for itself.

I like the bit about “education and its laws should be observed in all teaching.” That was published at a time when society generally believed in “absolutes,” in laws that governed a law-abiding universe!

You see, there are definite laws that govern human behavior. There are definite laws that when applied produce happy, well-rounded, balanced, effectively educated children. You find them stipulated in the Bible in such verses as Proverbs 1:7-9; 3:1; 22:6; 23:13; 29:15, 17.

One of the Proverbs that has particular application to this subject is found in Proverbs 22:28: “Remove not the ancient landmark, which your fathers have set.” A more correct rendition from the original Hebrew is, “Do not remove the ancient boundary, which your fathers have set.”

Once, our education system set boundaries defining acceptable standards of child behaviour. Once it set the behavioural standards according to the laws of education. That was in the days when the Anglo-Saxon education system was the envy of the world. But we progressively lost that vision during the second half of the 20th century.


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