The ideal school should balance rigor and nurturing environment. However, looking at the modern system of education, I think it tends too much to the “nurturing” side, and the consequences for kids and society in general are grave.
For the first two-three school years children hear the message that “learning should be fun” and then they are unpleasantly surprised when it turns out that learning is not always fun, and some hard work is required our children are not ready for this. It’s not getting better when kids are getting older, when the requirements become more serious, and kids are becoming more frustrated, stressed out or worse depressed. Allow me to go even further and suggest that this trend continues to the work place. Most of us expect to get “instant gratification” from our job, and we switch the jobs almost like gloves once a year if we don’t have this instant gratification.
I can hear the arguments of the “rigor” opponents – let the children have a normal childhood; they will have their share of hard work later. Believe me, I agree. But what is a normal childhood? Is it really a situation when 5-year kids are allowed to get almost everything they want in the store, based on what they’ve seen lately on TV ads? Or is it a situation when first graders ask Santa for “X-Box, I-Pod, laptop computer, cell phone and 1000 bucks?” I do not exaggerate those wishes were recorded for the school Christmas party by the teacher with some sense of humor. The parents laughed and cried at the same time.
Unfortunately, by the time children come to the school they are already “corrupted” by media. Parents alone simply can not win the battle. The school system should be there for us our children need to know what is a discipline, what is work/study ethic, and learn the consequences of irresponsibility. The nurturing system that we have in most schools simply does not provide a solution. Some rigor has to be applied, then.
PS From my own experience (and from my parents’) all of us went through Soviet education system. Despite its many shortcomings, this system did prepare children for colleges and universities, without the need of tutors. True, the western system gives children more freedom but so often this freedom comes at expense of self-control and discipline.