Just the facts Ma’me, all 3,500 of them

By Stephen Rhodes

Have you ever been in a conversation at a cocktail party and suddenly some obscure fact jumps into your head and you just blurt it out? Over a lifetime we collect information and store it in the inner recesses of our brain for instant (that fades with time) recall when required.

This weekend the National Post wrote a piece Are we expecting too much from our children at school? It seems that Ontario’s education ministry is working on a  massive overhaul of its curriculum and is debating whether the current curriculum’s colossal 3,500 “expectations” — the stuff we remember at cocktail parties 20 years later –has a place in the education system.

Some educators argue whether the sheer number of basic facts that kids are expected to learn has any application in real life, while others say it is essential to lay out expectations clearly in order to meet public demands about educational accountability. Politics, of course.

Some subjects contain upwards of 300 learning expectations in a year.

So, we cram out kids’  heads full of facts that they can get in a Google search in about 20 seconds. Technology has changed the landscape and it provides us with a tremendous opportunity to shape education to create unique thinkers.

Remember the hue and cry over introducing the calculator?

Karen Grose, a board superintendent, said that while a strong foundation of literacy and mathematics is critical to students’ success, she said the current curriculum focuses too much on filling students’ minds with disparate facts instead of teaching them to think critically.

Amanda Hardy, a Grade 8 math and drama teacher at Earnscliffe Senior Public School in Brampton says teachers are expected to prepare students for jobs that don’t yet exist.

“We don’t know what facts they will need for those jobs. So we’re teaching kids how to process information and recognize the value,” she said. “The person who has a great memory and all kinds of facts stored in their brain is never going to be able to compete with the person who has access to information and knows how to use it.”

Hear, hear.

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4 responses to “Just the facts Ma’me, all 3,500 of them

  1. Robert Montgomery

    I take issue with the statement that it is education’s job to prepare students for a workplace of any kind. That is a particular view of education’s function, and a very pragmatic one at that. And it is completely wrong-headed. As Augustinus said, to speak of education as having ANY aims or objectives is to diminish its value to the individual and society. Education serves to prepare the individual for a thinking life, with an inquisitive mind and a hunger for understanding. Anything less is ToryTalk.

  2. Patrick McConnell

    Teach our kids how to source information, organize it, recognize value, think through issues and communicate in logical fashion.
    Pretty straight forward stuff.

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