If I hear the 3R meme once again, I will snap. Arithmetic doesn’t start with an R. Writing doesn’t start with an R. How intelligent is that? Two thirds of the “back to the basics” theme is incorrect. It is a great statement to take advantage of people politically. If I want pander to the “kids these days” generation, that’s a great hook. “Kids these days need some discipline. They need drill. They need memorization. That’ll learn’em. That’s what education is. That was school for me, and I turned out Ok” Although there is still a generation that may believe in that, it is starting to shift. Common core and STEM learning are the newer buzzwords for a newer generation of parents. We teach them common core standards. STEM classes (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) are being pushed upon our children whether they like it or not.
Don’t get me wrong, STEM topics are very important in our changing world. The technological component itself is changing daily. What I think that politicians and some educators fail to understand is that art, music, storytelling, physical education, recess, play, and social interaction are hugely important parts of STEM. Especially in the K to 8 age range. “We need to spend more time in the classroom sitting down and learning math and science and technology.” Really?
Recess, art, music and physical education are slowly dwindling away in order to get more STEM time. I say that art, music and play will help students immensely with math, science and technology. I believe that before you can actually specialize in a subject you need creativity and problem solving skills ingrained in your soul. This will not come from more worksheets at a younger age. Art and music are related to math. Spatial relations, geometric shapes, reading music, all important to math and science. Many studies have shown that physical activity improves learning. Why would we start to take it away? Let’s open up our world to our children, not compress it.
I am going to introduce my own acronym that I think would be more beneficial to our younger children. CRAP (Creativity, Representation, Artistry, Problemsolving/Critical thinking/Logic)
Creativity is self-explanatory. We need to give our children and students the freedom to choose, to create, and to enjoy the activity they have chosen to engage in.
Representation is to foster an understanding that “not everything is what it seems” In the same way x represents a number in an algebraic formula, much of our world is not face value. Some ideas have more than one meaning. Books often have a hidden meaning to a simple story. A piece of art may represent something else other than what is shown. It may mean different things to different people. If you hear a song about Mary Jane, do you wonder who it is about? Or, what it is?
Artistry. Drawing, playing music, dancing, writing a story, building a lego castle, painting, designing, acting, dressing up, cooking, need I say more.
Problem solving/Critical Thinking/Logic. Our children need to solve problems. This is a part of math for sure. But a problem is a problem. How many problems do our children encounter climbing a tree, building a model, playing in a park, or even outside at recess? Many. Solving these problems on their own gives them the confidence to solve other, more larger problems. Critical Thinking/Logic, the ability to question, to look at something and wonder why it is the way it is. We don’t want to raise robots. When they hear someone say that they are “Going to build a wall” they have the ability to question the validity of said wall, not just go “Great Idea!!”
Critical thinking is such an important skill. Critical thinking creates problems to solve. “What happens if we do it this way?” That’s critical thinking.
These skills are all so extremely relevant in our world today. Top down, teacher led instruction on the “right way” to get to an answer can diminish the resolve of our kids to question. Standardized testing and being taught to the test is taking away our creativity. Yes we need technology, but what good is a code writer who can’t solve the problem of why his/her algorithm won’t work. Or one who can’t apply it to invent a new app. How important is problem solving and creativity to a surgeon when something goes wrong on a routine appendectomy?
I’m not sure CRAP will catch on right away. Perhaps, if I think about it critically, it may not have been the best acronym.