Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Life in Technicolor? A World of Possibilities

I've been thinking rather alot lately about differing expectations in the context of the TwinBean's kindergarten experience. Obviously, I come from a very different educational experience than the typical Jordanian education. That's not to say it's better, but it definitely values very different things. In the US, we tend to value things like creativity, critical reasoning, and application of knowledge. In Jordan (British system I think), they tend to value memorizing, giving back the right answer, and carrying around lots of facts. Now, I think, in life, one of these tends to make a personal more adaptable, but that's an understandable bias.

Recently we have had a bit of a hoopla at the Bean's kindergarten from some parents who are less than thrilled. In their estimation, the KG is not "academic" enough. The kids are 4 and 5. Of COURSE it isn't focused on academics. It's focused on learning through play, experiencing things through sight, smell, touch, feel, etc. Actually, I wish once they hit elementary they were more focused on experiential learning, but that's a different thing altogether.

In this conversation that has been occurring, one of the Moms expressed how unhappy she was that the materials that they use to teach letters is done in black and white. Apparently, she thinks the kids would respond better if it were in bold colors. Now, me, I tend to think a bit differently. I want my kids to spend time creating a world of their own around them. I want them to take a black and white picture of a bunny rabbit and color it pink or blue or rainbow. After all, very, very quickly here in Jordan they will be faced with only one right answer. There will be only one correct color. Why would I want to start priming them for that at age 4. Can't I give them even 2 years of creativity?

As I've been considering this (because I like to validate my views internally, think them through and argue with myself), I noticed that one of our favorite books holds a cue and a surprise. For her birthday last year, ButterBean got the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. If you haven't read his work, you should. This book and Where The Sidewalk Ends are perhaps his best known books. I actually love the title of the second one super-much.

**Warning tangent ahead**
Imagine with me, if you will, what wondrous things await us where the sidewalk ends. In Jordan, so few people use sidewalks that I'm not sure the allure translates. In the US, particularly in the suburbs, there are miles and miles of sidewalks. Every street is properly lined with a sidewalk. And yet, some of the most exciting adventures happen in places where there are empty lots and no sidewalks.
**End tangent**

While reading The Giving Tree last night at JujuBean's request I realized that in this book of 52 pages of lovely illustrations, engaging characters, and potent words, there is not a single color. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the book is totally done in black and white. In fact, the entire book is made up of only 2 characters as well. Through his ingenious use of minimalism, Silverstein tells a compelling story rife with life-lessons that every child should hear. And, it's all in black in white. It allows you to focus on the words and, at the same time, to imagine the tree in any color from the rainbow, to see its apples as your favorite - red, green, yellow or blue. The more I think about it and the more I see, the more I think that black and white is definitely the right choice. After all, how will we be able to dream up new ideas if our entire lives are filled with the expectation of what is right rather than what is possible?

Happy possibilities!


At 11:05 AM , Anonymous jaraad said...

The problem is that the lack of creativity does not stop at KG level it goes all the way to the college level. During my four years in the university not a single professor asked students to do any kind of presentations. We had to solve exercises and exams only. No presentations, mean students don't give their opinion about the subject they are studying. Unfortunately, Jordanian educational system based only on how much information a student can stuff on his brain. And this trend is strongly supported by parents because they don't want their kid to be a poor artists or novelists, he or she should aim only to be an MD or an engineer. This is very interesting subject thanks for sharing.

At 11:17 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Jaraad, thanks for your comment. indeed, I have some issues with the educationla system as a whole that I am trying to overcome at home. However, I would love to see more push towards creativity in the educational curriculum.

At 1:17 PM , Blogger abu 'n um tulip said...

Teddy Bear had his KG interview this week. This explains the sigh of relief from the director when I said "I'm not really concerned about academics. Rather, I'd like to see our son develop his personality."

Good news. Critical thinking skills - yes we can. Can't say much more without writing a book, but optimism is taking over these days!

~ Um Tulip


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