05 January 2007

The effects of growing up in an educated and educational society are numerous... and sometimes the proof just sneaks up on you. Two such examples caught me by surprise this Christmas. I had been at a neighbor's house maybe a half hour, and suddenly her 26-year-old son took me to the table and asked if I knew how to do "this". Now, in this case, "this" was a Christmas puzzle probably intended for ages 6+. So, I sat down and, having nothing better to do, put the puzzle together. It was one of those with the piece outlines on the board. I finished in maybe 10-15 mins, and suddenly everybody was super excited. The 10-year-old took it around to show everybody, and they were amazed that I could put it together. "Bolivar and I spent an hour on that, and we couldn't even get one piece!" my neighbor told me. Not even the 26-year-old had been able to put it together. I thought of my house where I recently put together a 1000 piece photo mosaic and a 300+ piece globe. How easily we take for granted our growing up in a problem/puzzle-solving world!

The second mind-blowing revelation occurred the next day. I was at the same neighbor's house, and somehow the conversation turned to the way the "land rotates". My neighbor's son-in-law very matter-of-factly told me he didn't believe that. At first, I thought maybe they were talking about continental drift and how land masses are moving, but his position was soon clarified as someone announced "It's the sun that rotates around the earth!" This was roundly accepted (since of course it's the sun that moves across our sky every day) until I spoke up. I tried explaining (briefly and simply!) how the earth was like a ball turning - we wouldn't see ourselves moving (as they pointed out we can't). I went on to say that the sun does not move, but the earth and all the planets go around it. "Yeah, I was taught that in school, but I never believed a word of it," chimed in the son-in-law. And that was the end of that conversation.

How much our education shapes us! Growing up we are taught to understand facts, not just know them. Teachers spend precious time explaining and teaching us to learn. In countries such as this one, students are taught by rote. Whatever is on the board, they copy down and memorize. There is no why, no problem-solving, no application. I won't say education in the entire country is this way, but if this is a sample of the learning process for the majority, what implications does this have for development? for change? Often times it's the little things - reading a book to open your world, doing a mind puzzle to exercise your brain - that reflect our joy in the learning process. As educated people, we enjoy learning and seek out "learning opportunities". Peace Corps is just that for me - a learning opportunity. New cultures, new ideas, new lifestyles. But wouldn't it be amazing if I could be a "learning opportunity" for them? May you be a learning opportunity in your community this new year, wherever you may be!


Pastor Randy said...

Well stated. Oh the things we take for granted including the freedom and the blessing of a wonderful educational system.

Thanks for sharing, and yes, may we all continue to be learners and teachers.

Teach on!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jessica, good thoughts.

Being a teacher here in the D.R., your words inspire me, more so, to teach the children to ask 'why'...

That is a major part of the Doulos Discovery School philosophy, as well!

Russ Offord

Anonymous said...

Jessica, Well written and insightful email on your blog re education and being American. It's what the Peace Corps is all about - being a leader & sharing our wealth of knowledge and experience with those who will listen. We are very proud of your efforts!! Your Aunt and Uncle in Pleasant Hill, CA.