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Child Centered Curriculum

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Children are the center of and the reason for an educational system. Logically then, the system should revolve around the needs of the child. Instead, since the beginning of public schools, children have been made to conform to the system. Natural curiosity and a child’s need to explore his world are not taken into consideration in the school schedule. This has led to generations of failure and ever-increasing dissatisfaction in our young people.

In 1993, the U.S. government released the results of a five-year, $14 million study of adult literacy in the United States. This study showed that 21 to 23 percent of adults in America could not: locate information in text, make low-level inferences using printed materials, or integrate easily identifiable pieces of information. A follow-up study was performed by the same group of researchers in 2006. This study showed that there was no statistically significant improvement in adult literacy.

The simple facts behind the statistics are that approximately 90 million Americans have problems with such things as job applications and balancing a checkbook. They are unable to follow anything but the simplest written directions. They must struggle through life trying to support themselves and their families when they have not been given the proper tools to perform the skills required of them.

The current educational model is teacher-centered. This places students into passive roles in which knowledge is given to them. The knowledge does not have meaning in the child’s life and therefore does not engage the child in the act of learning. In a student-centered learning environment, children take an active part in decisions about what they will learn and when they will learn it.

Each child is different and has different learning needs. A chief cause of boredom and therefore failure in school is that children are forced to fit into the mold that is the standard classroom. Instead of having real input in their own education, children are forced to simply follow the leader. Unfortunately the leader, or classroom teacher, also has very little input into what she presents to her students. Curriculum decisions are made in a place far removed from an actual classroom and students.

Because people do not really understand the system, some feel teachers are the problem; therefore, they take much of the brunt of the dissatisfaction with our schools. This is both illogical and unfair. Every year new teachers graduate from college and go into classrooms full of idealism and an honest desire to make a difference in the lives of the children they teach. Every year thousands of teachers who have been beaten down by the system give up and go into different careers that are less stressful and heart breaking. It is the system that is broken, and until it is fixed not even the best and most devoted teachers can make a real difference. Teachers cannot be expected to repair all the damages done by years of bad policies and practices in the public school system.

National educational bodies create standardized tests and decide what appropriate scores on those tests are. They then put pressure on state educational authorities to meet these standards. The state authorities put pressure on the administrators of the local schools. The schools accreditation depends on test scores, so school administrators put pressure on the teachers whose jobs depend on making sure that students pass the tests. In the end it all filters down and the cumbersome weight of this entire unrealistic and irrelevant system falls on the shoulders of our children.

Does all this mean children should not be tested? No, it means the material tested should be more realistic and apply more directly to what children need to know. It also means the method of testing should more accurately access a child’s ability and knowledge. Testing should be a normal part of the learning process. Tests should be integrated into the system in a way that keeps them from causing anxiety for students.

It is time to change the pattern from dependence on irrelevant tests and a teacher-centered classroom to a system that revolves around the child. Children’s minds are incredible with a capacity for learning that is amazing. One need only look into the eyes of a child when he sees something such as a butterfly for the first time to understand there is an infinite sense of wonder there that can and should be tapped. Tapping into that sense of wonder and fascination should be the primary focus of parents and of our educational system.

Children should be guided to explore and understand their world in a way that increases their desire to learn and to develop a meaningful relationship with their world. The curriculum should revolve around the student’s needs and goals in life. This above all should be the aim of our public school system. Instead the system has become an assembly line for churning out bored and dissatisfied young people who can take in facts and regurgitate them on standardized tests in order to satisfy state standards that have lost all relevant meaning.

Children are bored and dissatisfied with school because they have the common sense to understand much of what they are being taught is not significant to their lives. This conflict between what they need to know and what they are being taught can only lead to frustration and depression. Frustration and depression can manifest itself as negative behaviors that can lead to discipline problems and possibly serious mental health issues.

John Taylor Gatto, in his book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling says we teach our children seven lessons in our public schools. He maintains these lessons are universal and taught in all schools.

The first lesson is confusion. This is accomplished by teaching everything out of context. Children are presented with a plethora of unrelated facts and expected to accept that learning these facts is the right thing to do. It is as natural as breathing for a child to seek the meaning behind the facts, but meaning is not taught, only facts and theories.

The second lesson our schools teach our children is class position. Children are put into a specific class and indoctrinated into the belief that it is where they belong. This makes the process of education easier for the school, but is not in any way beneficial for the child.

The third lesson children learn in school is indifference. This is subtle lesson but one that is accomplished on a daily basis. Children are encouraged to participate and show great interest in the lesson that is being presented in the time it is presented. Then the bell rings, and they must immediately change their interest to another subject, usually totally unrelated to the first. This teaches children that nothing has real importance; it is the schedule that is important.

Emotional dependency is the fourth lesson taught by our schools. Children have no real rights in a school setting. Teachers control children by granting and withholding favors for accepted behavior. Children desperately seek moments of privacy and independence in school, but maintain the control necessary, this cannot be allowed.

Intellectual dependency is the fifth lesson needed to make the public school system work. Children must become accustomed to being told what they need to learn and what they need to think. From the first days of schooling, children learn that the teacher makes the rules and the teacher will tell them what they need to learn. This guided learning does not leave room for exploration and natural curiosity. There is only so much time in a school day, and that time is filled to overflowing with information that is approved by the system.

The sixth lesson teachers teach is provisional self-esteem. In public schools children must conform to the system in order for the system to function. Self-esteem or self-respect is based on so-called expert opinion. Children are given tests, progress reports, and report cards to tell them how they are doing. Parents have abdicated their rights in making decisions about a child’s well-being, instead allowing the school system to tell them how their child is doing.

The seventh lesson children learn in school is that you can’t hide. Children are constantly under surveillance when in school. This surveillance is carried into the home in the form of homework. Privacy is alien to a system that seeks to control its members.

A standard classroom where 30 students sit in rows, speaking only when called upon to do so, for many hours every day, is not conducive to creative thinking or any type of meaningful learning. It is this type of regimented and restrictive environment that turns out children who have no tolerance for anybody who is different from themselves. It creates young people who have issues with self-worth and are disillusioned with life in general.

For those students who are unable to conform to the accepted standards of what is popular and acceptable, life in the public school system can become a nightmare. Bullying and harassment are common in public schools. Children are expected to sit in a classroom and concentrate when someone who has bullied them physically or emotionally might be sitting in the desk right next to them. The results of the stress caused by this type of situation can have tragic results. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people from 15 to 24 and the fourth leading cause of death in children from 10 to 14. Among the reasons listed by the CDC for teenage suicides is inability to do well at school, feelings of worthlessness, and rejection by friends or peers. We must ask ourselves why so many of our children despair to the point of taking their own lives. How are we not meeting the needs of these children and what can be done about it?

Free World U’s Life Skills curriculum addresses the issues that are important to young people. Interpersonal relationships are covered extensively. This is a significant area in children’s lives, one in which guidance is needed. What children learn about relationships can influence how they live their lives and treat people. We provide guidance in areas such as sibling rivalry, romance and courtship, communication, and abusive relationships. The Life Skills curriculum also has an extensive section covering careers. This part of the curriculum gives a brief survey of many different career choices, giving the student information about the steps involved in each choice. These careers do not only cover professional careers but ordinary, everyday jobs many young people gravitate toward. At Free World U we believe it is important to make sure students are well-informed about mental health. Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada for people from 15 to 44. It is important for students to understand what the symptoms and signs of mental disorders are in their own lives and the lives of significant others. There is also a considerable amount of information in our curriculum about addictive behaviors. We believe this will help the students recognize issues, hopefully before they become problems. If indeed there are problems with addictive behaviors, we offer a clear understanding of what they are and explain many avenues for receiving help, whether the problem is that of the student or someone she cares about.

Many children who cannot adhere to the current standards set in our public schools are seen as discipline problems, perhaps even classified as having learning disabilities. We believe many of these problems will fade away once a student is allowed to make choices about his learning environment and realize that he does have control of both his life and his actions.

Due to the current exam mentality, children are being robbed of an essential part of their childhood, time to play. Almost any expert in child psychology will tell you play is an important part of a child’s day. Recesses and creative outlets such as music and art are a thing of the past in many schools. School day schedules are consumed by the volume of material that must be covered in order for the students to perform well on the standardized tests. With Free World U’s methods, children learn up to seven times faster than in a normal classroom environment. This frees up many hours in the day for children to explore other interests. These interests will be as different as each child is different.

We believe what we teach children must be relevant to their lives in order for them to learn. Our student-centered curriculum does not take anything away from what is now available; it adds to it and adds the advantage of choice. Children who study through Free World U will learn the facts that they are required to know, but they will also learn much more. They will learn how to live full and rewarding lives guided by principles such as honesty, fair play, and a desire to be the best possible person they can be.

Our curriculum will help to integrate children into lives that are centered on family and community. Parents and children will make decisions about learning. Without the artificial structure of public schools, we believe a more natural order can be established that will be of great benefit to children and to the future of our country. We believe in this way children will develop a true sense of their own self-worth and be able to see what is worthy in the world around them.