Friday, April 22, 2016

The Future is in Everything?

It's funny but it's not until  one is diagnosed with a terminal illness that one suddenly becomes acutely aware of how different perspectives come into play in one's life.

One such difference I've noticed recently is just how much the activities and thoughts that comprise our daily lives are focused on the future: I need to go shopping so I can eat later today and for the rest of the week; I need to publish an article to remain tenured; I need to brush my teeth so they will remain healthy; I need to not smoke so that I will live for ever (if only I had heeded this one 50 years ago). The list goes on. We paint our houses to protect them from the ravages of rain, we change the oil in our cars to keep them running. Of course, painting a house makes it look nice and choosing a car you like gives one a sense of pleasure. But when you stop and think and give everything a percentage of now/present or future it always seems the future part comes out way ahead, almost 90% it seems sometimes.

 Everything except listening to music. Music is for the present. I listen  mostly to  Bruce Hornsby or Scars on 45. If you really, really listen to the music; to the voices and the instrumentation; the feelings and emotions being conveyed you are 100% in the present. There is nothing in the music you are listening to that is touched by, or touches, the future. Pure hedonism perhaps, but in the best possible way.

So I started thinking about this related to elementary school math. So often we call elementary school "preparation for the future" or :preparation for middle school". This is all wrong. Elementary school is for a child in the present, in the now, for them as children. For example, when we teach a set of multiplication facts we should help the student focus on the wonderful  patterns made by the facts, the relationship between the numbers, what multiplication means and how cool it is to have a tool that can help you work  out what 12 fifteens are.if we do this the student will remember the facts. The 'future' component of the activity is the result of being in the "present" while being involved in it.

Elementary school should be a celebration of what it means to be young, to be curious about the world, to make mistakes and have conceptions of things that are outrageous and wild until the reality of what they really are sets in. The British Government currently fails to see this where they see education as "economic investment". Their push for turning all public schools into private academies is as misguided as constantly testing children.  We re thankfully beginning to see that this focus on testing in US schools is seriously misguided.

I remember teaching a graduate course to teachers in a school in Monterrey in Mexico 30 years ago where children were treated as children. They were expected to behave and think like children  and not as mini-adults. Childhood was celebrated for what it was, a time of growing, learning,discovering and just being a kid.


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