If a child tries a sport and finds that he is not good at it, we allow him to move on and try something else. If a child tries a lesson at school and finds that he is not good at it, we demand that he keep trying the same thing over and over and over again.
Albert Einstein is generally credited with stating this, now famous, definition: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. As a society, we tend to concur with this quote. We use it as a colloquialism. We accept it as one of the true definitions of insanity. Why then don’t we apply it to one of the most important building blocks of our society —
In our children, we are quick to accept excuses like “Baseball just isn’t his thing,” “She’s not any good at gymnastics,” “He doesn’t have the hand-eye coordination for tennis,” “She doesn’t have the patience for golf,” etc…but could you imagine if we used the same justifications for why a child struggles in school? “Math just isn’t her thing,” “He’s just not any good at social studies,” “She doesn’t have the hand-eye coordination for cursive,” “He doesn’t have the patience for school.”
It’s different, right? It’s “not allowed.” It’s “not a good excuse”. It’s just plain “unacceptable.” But, why? When will we learn that an inside-the-box, one-size-fits-all education is what’s “unacceptable”?
So, do you want to know my secret shame? My nine-year-old did not pass the math section of her third grade standardized test. Because of this and, because of her ADHD, she has remediation and inventions to try to help bridge the gap from what she knows and can do to what she is supposed to know and supposed to be able to do. But guess what?
“Math just isn’t her thing.”
As a mom I constantly struggle with wanting to help her, while at the same time wanting desperately to tell her that she will never have to use a number line to solve anything in the real world so it’s OK that she doesn’t understand how they work. I, like any mom, want her to come home with good grades and a heart full of pride when she makes honor roll or earns a $5 for every A in high school. However, I have also come to the realization that, until we stop treating education as insanity, this may not be our reality.
I would like to think that we are evolving. We have moved from the rote memorization of facts from yesteryear into a world of alternative seating options and iPads in the classroom. This is a great first step, but it is only a first step. I don’t know the third or even the second step, but I do know that I will not expect a different result if we keep doing the same thing over and over again.