Thursday, November 27, 2008
ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A TEN YEAR OLD?
Occasionally my kids watch Are you smarter than a 10 year old, another piece Noel Edmonds drivel. I have actually sat down and watched this one with them despite my strict I will not waste a minute of my life watching inane TV quiz shows rule. The reasons I have found myself watching this are disbelief and curiosity. The show divides the questions into topics and ages - you get an 8 year old English literature question, a 6 year old geography question, a 10 year old history question etc. My kids, who are top of their class here in Scotland, sit unable to answer 90% of the questions - in fact, in general the only questions they can answer are maths and spelling. This puzzles them, but it doesn't puzzle me. The questions, designed to mirror the English curriculum, scream out the horrors of education system they are currently using south of the border. They ask very narrow, very specific facts that you either know or don't - they have nothing to do with being smart or not - they simply have to do with learning nonsense parrot fashion for no particular reason. For example, when my kids study poetry at school, say Wordsworth's I wandered lonely as a cloud, they read a poem and analyse the alliteration, the metaphors, the way language is used, the imagery, all at an appropriate level for their ability, regardless of their age. It seems, if Noel is to be believed, that in England you learn the facts - you might be asked the type of flowers Wordworth mentions in the first stanza (daffodils). Knowing whether it is daffs or roses does not increase your intelligence one iota, but that knowledge gains you a point in their exam and league table driven system so the whole country is teaching inane facts of this type so the kids can pass the exams. They have lost sight of the fact that passing the exam isn't the point of learning - it's better to learn to think but skip the silly meaningless facts. Today's Independent explained the end point on that educational track... Is that really what the UK wants to fill 80% of its youngsters' minds with? My kids do look very surprised when I cry with joy at their inability to answer any of the English curriculum questions - they haven't quite understood the implications of the two systems yet.