Formal education today, both public and private, is rigid and artificial – separate disciplines, specializations, etc. English is studied apart from art, history, and music. The latter are studied apart from math, science, and religion. Within English, some people are experts in medieval literature, others in Renaissance or Victorian literature. They rarely converse with one another in order to see the whole picture.
We do not study the past the way people lived it. In 1890s London, Queen Victoria and her empire shared newspaper space with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Spurgeon, James Whistler, and Oscar Wilde. Across the channel, the Can-Can and Impressionist painters made waves in Paris. And across the pond, the Gilded Age produced great artists and writers as people embraced Henry Ford’s model-T. The same is true of 20th-century world wars. History, literature, science, and technology collided. Interdisciplinary, team-taught studies of these periods would be a refreshing change for students.
Still, learning consists of more than a classroom, books, and a chalkboard. Too few teachers use images, music, and DVDs in that classroom. They could show documentaries or feature films in lieu of a lecture, which my high school history teachers used often. Not only did I study the Crusades and American wars, I also watched films on them too. Many modern films and TV series are an excellent way to study some history and literature.
Teachers rarely take students on field trips either. I still remember trips to regional museums and local performances of the Nutcracker and the musical Oliver! Most cities today have museums, parks, and concert halls. What better way to learn about art, history, literature, music, and science?
Content is one problem. Structure is another. Some schools have lengthened the day. Others have cut recess. However, children need at least 6-8 hours of sleep and a good breakfast if they are expected to perform well in school. They also need a break from hours of study, i.e. free play. Field trips and after-school activities like sports or band do not detract from learning either.
Education should create a thirst for learning in people. What they do not learn in school, people can learn at home or at a park or museum. If education is not guiding people to independent study outside the classroom, then it has failed them. Nationwide, reading is on the decline. On average, I read 30 books and watch 300 films every year. My subjects of choice are art, history, literature, music, and religion. I hunger and thirst for knowledge, but I hope I am not alone.
Is anyone willing to change the dead, stale system we call formal education today? The futures of all civilized nations and the welfare of their citizens depend on it.