Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Private Tour Through the Museum of Knowledge

We've been chasing away our rainy day blues through field trips to local museums quite often in recent weeks. We've done 3-D digital animation at the Zeum. We've gotten an up close view of the human body via the BodyWorlds 2 exhibit at the Tech Museum of Innovation. We've peered at Drosophila chromosomes through a microscope at the Exploratorium.

One thing I really appreciated during our field trips is how nice it was that we could go through the museums at our own pace. My kids were able to spend as much or as little time at each exhibit as they themselves wanted to. In contrast, we saw several class groups where it was obvious that the pace of the tour was not appropriate for a large percentage of the students. Many of the kids were either visibly bored or visibly upset at being herded along to the next exhibit before they were ready. The teacher or museum docent was in charge of the schedule, regardless of their students' own individual needs.

The authors of Poisoned Apple: The Bell Curve Crisis and How Our Schools Create Mediocrity and Failure use the museum group tour as an analogy for the instruction in traditional schools. Betty Wallace and William Graves write:

"These highly defined curricula pressure teachers to march students through their lessons as if they were on a group tour in a museum. The curriculum writers decide which halls the students march down and which works they will spend their time viewing. Teachers cannot tolerate stragglers in the museum of knowledge nor do they allow the more curious and energetic to race ahead or stray down inviting corridors on their own. Such departures jeopardize the group's progress."

Homeschooling allows us to replace the group tour with an individual one. Each student's individual needs determine the schedule, not some arbitrary decree by a committee of educrats hundreds or thousands of miles away. If we want to take a detour down an inviting corridor, we have the freedom to do so. These "rabbit trails" often turn out to be highly enlightening as well as enjoyable. Also, if we want to incorporate our own family's values, there is no ACLU to file a lawsuit against us. We choose what curriculum (if any) to use, and we have the flexibility to modify it or replace it entirely if it's not working for our students.


Anonymous said...

Hi CW- you've been tagged-

Sara said...

I love the museum trip analogy. Thanks!