Having grown up in a farming environment using tools was part of everyday life. Using a hoe, rake, shovel, or hammer was second nature. If something needed fixing, we knew which tool to use to fix it. It never occurred to my brothers and me that there were other children (although we didn't think about ourselves as children at that time) who did not know how to use tools.
During my first three years of high school, I went to a boarding school in Indiana. While there I met another student who was a year younger than I and lived very close to our home. When the school year ended, his parents and my parents arranged for him to come home with me in order to save time and money on travel costs.
On the way home, my mother said that there were some loose boards in a building we used as a bathhouse for our swimming pool. She asked that I fix it right away so that my younger brothers and sisters would not get hurt on them. When we got home, I went to the tool box and picked up a hammer and some nails. As my friend and I walked to the bathhouse, he asked if he could use the hammer. I certainly had no particular love for the hammer, so I said sure; it sounded like a Tom Sawyer moment to me.
Well, was I ever surprised when he asked me to show him how to hammer a nail. Say what? Here was a 15-year-old boy who had never used a hammer; he knew what it looked like and what it was used for, but he had no idea as to what it was like to actually use the hammer. This was only my first experience with someone telling me that they had read about or learned about something, but had never experienced it. Many times throughout my life, my employers, peers, friends, students and others have expressed this same sense of awe and wonder at various activities because they had never experienced it. They knew about it and could recite facts and figures, but they did not have an understanding of what it felt like to actually participate in its use.
I wonder if our children are understanding or memorizing what they are learning in school. Since the majority of tests are designed for easy grading, they typically center on true/false; multiple/choice; fill-the-blanks or some other system that allows for technology to be used in grading. The question is, "What system is in place to insure our children are actually learning how to practically apply what they are being taught?"
We can learn about the many types of bank accounts, insurances, investments, home mortgages, etc.; but, does simply knowing about the characteristics of these financial issues keep us from being caught up in the mortgage market crisis? From all indications the answer for those currently involved with the mortgage mess, the answer is No!; and one of the major reasons is that simply knowing about financial issues does not mean a person can properly apply them in their personal life.
The type of understanding that is needed for today's youth far exceeds the level of education that was adequate for many of us who grew up in a United States that was independent of the global influences.
Those who truly understand how to apply the knowledge and skills they learned are able to navigate the current conditions. They can, in many cases, benefit from others who are in crisis.
Learning implies an understanding. Truly learning is the ability to take something and develop its use for improvement of oneself or a situation.
To simply acquire knowledge without the understanding of how it can be utilized is a waste of time and effort.
Are our children learning or simply acquiring knowledge? What do you think?
Richard A. Meyer Jr.