Traditional or new Educational Styles

For the longest time, most educators taught in a style that relied more on the facts and figures of the subject, whether or not they were relevant to everyday life.  However, in recent times, more and more teachers have begun teaching in a style dedicated mostly to activities with the intention of applying the subject to everyday life. On the subject of which version of teaching is better, I believe that it is more important for teachers to focus on teaching students the facts and figures of the subject they are teaching, rather on subjecting them to so called authentic activities that allow students to apply information.

On the subject, I believe that while it would possibly be more fun for students to practice activities in class they can use in day to day life, it is simply not what the education system is, or should be. Students go to school to learn, and while facts and figures may not be the most exciting way to learn, they are necessary for the learning of material.  if a student were more interested in exploring subjects more abstract that what they are taught in books, they should do so on their own time, away from school.  While alternative teaching methods may provide instant gratification for the student, they are simply incompatible with the way the education system is set up in the United States, with its use of standardized testing, and regent’s exams.

I shall parallel this idea to my own experiences with the piano.  While learning piano, I went through classical training. The bulk of my training involved the boring, yet necessary essentials of music.  Although things such as musical notation and ear training were boring to me, after a few years of lessons, I realized that such things were necessary.  If my teacher had used a less structured, yet more fun strategy for teaching me, away from the facts and figures of music, his teaching would have been less effective and I wouldn’t be as good at playing piano as I currently am. The same goes for anything taught in school.  While a class setting in which material is forsaken for creativity may be more interesting, the students’ learning would ultimately suffer in the long one.

I once had a teacher who did forsake facts and figures in favor of activities for information application. The teacher was one of history. He made it his goal to, instead of teaching us the facts of what transpired, spend the year showing us various pieces of art work from the period of time we covered which expressed what was going on at the time. While this gave the class a more fun atmosphere of work than we would have gotten otherwise, it backfired in the grand scheme of things. Once his class ended it was time to take the regents exam. Due to the teacher’s insistence on giving us style over substance, he failed to move us quickly enough through the year to finish the curriculum. As a result of this, I got any and all questions on the test wrong which had to do with the parts of the curriculum he failed to cover. This caused me to get a lower grade on the regents exam than I could have, had he chosen to teach his class the traditional way, rather than his experimental one. It is that experience which has left me skeptical of the idea of using alternative methods to educate.