A study by the ACT in 2005 found that it was complex texts that was the piece that differentiated a child that was college ready and one that was not. It was not the comprehension level, it was not the textual element, it was not necessarily income or gender or race. The clearest differentiator was text complexity.
Being successful in interpreting and comprehending complex texts comes down to whether a student is a divergent or convergent thinker. And I believe that it is our school system that is at fault in producing students that can not think divergently. Our students are being put to sleep in the classroom when we should be waking them up. Our students are being forced to shut their senses down and deadening themselves to what is happening when we should be opening their senses up to learning in an aesthetic experience. Through this experience of learning, their senses are operating at its maximum peak, they are present in the moment of learning, their heart is resonating at the thing they are learning, and they are fully alive. And this is very opposite of what we do in our schools today.
Our schools are primarily about conformity and convergent thinking when it should be about divergent thinking. By divergent thinking I mean an essential capacity for original ideas that have value. This is the ability to see a plethora of possible answers to questions, an array of ways to interpret a question, multiple answers to one question, and a lateral way of thinking.
But what do we do in our schools…We have students working by themselves doing worksheet after worksheet, reading liberal textbooks full of fluff while we tell them there is one right answer and it is in the back of the book. AND DON’T LOOK! And don’t look off that partner’s paper because that is cheating.
This is wrong. This is not the way to teach and this does not facilitate learning. It may push out a cog in the factory but it is not learning. It is memorizing information, puking it onto a piece of paper, and then purging it from the brain to stuff in more information.
We all have the capacity for divergent thinking and most great learning happens in groups collaborating. This is learning and this is the stuff of growth. Our schools must rethink their way of education, perform a paradigm shift, and wake our kids up to what they have inside of themselves.