To Raise a Generation of Competence

So now Obama has another chance and so do we. He must look far into the future to do what is right and so do we. And that future is another generation of students in our public schools better prepared to project our nation’s strength. Let’s face it. If we do not begin to raise a generation of competence we will be buried in the marketplace of the world. We have the raw material at our disposal to create a generation of genius. We merely have to make sure we understand that what we are doing will insure our achieving such a goal. It begins in the first grade all through the country. It has to be economically feasible and simple to understand in its implementation. Strings don’t cost much. Videos of string figures are easy to bring to the class room. Teachers will be ecstatic at the tractable nature of their classrooms after students learn to interact while learning string figures. They will be able to relax in their anxieties as students come to them eager to be helped in their learning which they are confident they can achieve. I know this sounds like a fantasy, but I come to this discussion after a long period of teaching and watching students prosper while learning string figures. I began in high school and worked my way down to three- and four-year-olds. They all learned string figures and they all became efficient learners of whatever else they turned their minds to. They all blossomed before my eyes as they began to trust their abilities to explore their worlds. I know some of my colleagues have said that Montessori did this long before, but not in the entrenched system of public education. So here it is. Start every first grade class with a regular time period for learning string figures and talking about what school is all about. Talking about how each person can learn the hardest things by practicing simple beginnings and helping each other over the rough spots. Talking about how good it feels to learn how to do something which seems tricky and hard to do. Talking about the road ahead for the rest of their lives. I adduce a crude, simple graphic to show what I feel is the result of such an experience compared to the stunted aspirations of so many of our young people in our education system of today.

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