Teaching Children: A Theory Based on the Evolution of Concepts

From my studies over the years, it seems everything stems from a couple basic concepts. Philosophy is the foundation for math, which is the foundation for physics, which is the basis for chemistry, then Biology, then Psychology, etc. etc.

Same thing with other fields, I’d venture to say that philosophy is the foundation of art, which in a sense is the foundation of words and language, which is the basis of History.

So why don’t we teach in that order? I really believe children are smarter than what we give them credit for. Yes, of course, they haven’t developed the reasoning abilities that adults have, but what if rather than teaching them subjects in parallel, we taught them in a pyramid fashion based on what they seemed to be most interested in.

The most basic way to learn about something is to try to really get to know it and recreate it or destroy it as to learn more about it. We often try to do a little of both. Let’s assume that science is the destruction of things, and art is the recreation of things. If we let children move down their own paths towards a greater understanding of the world, then won’t they learn more. Won’t they be able to apply information to a greater range of material.

Then as they learn more and more, they will be on a path to specialize more and more, a quality that doesn’t seem to be taught in our schools and understandably so. Schools teach concepts, not applications, which is why a communications degree is almost useless in today’s market, whereas an engineering degree can get you a job in almost anything you desire. So why do schools teach like this? Well, because they want students to think about many different things as to develop better reasoning and applications, but I believe it fails. I believe that by teaching children in a pyramid scheme that they are building the foundations for their future. They will learn to apply knowledge based on the philosophies they have found, learn to reason based on the math they’ve done, learn to apply information based on the application of these prior fields to biology and psychology.

Here’s my proposition: Teach a child from the ground up. Develop their understanding of why 2+2=4 and why doesn’t 2+2=6, then move to the next concept, rather than throwing a lot of random information at them at once and never building any real concept of WHY things do exactly what they do and why things are the way they are. I believe if children had a better understanding of the world then our futures would look a lot brighter than they currently do.

A Short Autobiography

I came across this little autobiography I wrote to win a scholarship a few years back, figured it could be a good introduction to who I am for this blog. Maybe some of you can find connections between the way I think and my past. Here it is:

I remember sitting in the floor of my grandmother’s house discussing dinosaurs, the universe, and asking why everything was the way it was. I remember driving down the street asking my mom why leaves were green, why things fell, why some cars were faster than others, where the wind came from, and where we came from. I remember laying alone in bed at night after reading a Scooby-Doo book, thinking about how it was that Dinosaurs existed and how big the universe was and wondering if there was a God. I was born this way, or maybe my parents shaped me to be this way, that’s a psychological debate, but I am what I am and I am a Thinker.

The best way for anyone to understand me is to know my past. My grandmother has Masters degrees in the fields of Chemistry and Physics and did research and taught classes at various schools and colleges. From the very beginning she presented me with science magazines and articles, which of course at that age I didn’t understand, but in compliance with my natural ambition, fueled my curiosity. That’s my hypothesis on why I’m a Thinker.

Both of my parents went to the College of Charleston, but had me their sophomore year and folded underneath the pressures of working full times jobs, being full time students and raising a child. This was a major setback for us, as with no money to help from the rest of my family, we lived a poor lifestyle. We moved around a bit as my father tried to find a good job, but with no degree and another child on the way he stressed himself to the limit, finally settling in Spartanburg, SC, where he worked as a bartender, a restaurant manager and did side jobs such as newspaper delivery and waiting tables. My mother worked for a Vet and went back to school to finish her degree. My little brother was born premature, having highly under-developed lungs; he spent the first several months of his life in the hospital, adding even more stress to our young family. This added an even greater financial burden and so my father, a man of great common sense, above average intelligence, and a knack for business, started a company in our basement as a distributor of nuts and bolts. During this time period, I learned what hard work meant, the importance of stability for a family and what I needed to do as to build a better future for myself.

Unfortunately, life had become too much for my parents and they separated. I watched as my mother, a very ditsy, but highly intelligent and caring woman worked as hard as she could to take care of my brother and myself, while completing school and working full time. My world was turned upside down. Though my parents tried hard not to let any of this affect me, I would sit for hours at night staring up at my Universe themed wallpaper. Like the ancient Greek philosophers, I, amidst the turmoil, questioned why things had to be the way they were, why the mind works the way it does, why the world behaves as it does both socially and physically. I was twelve years old.

That’s when things began to change. My father’s business boomed and he became a fairly successful businessman. My mother with her new found degree didn’t find much more money, but she was doing what she had her heart set to do, helping mentally challenged children learn as to prepare them for education, so that they too could be productive members in society. My parents amended their separation and once again things were at peace. My little brother grew and overcame all of the medical disadvantages that plagued him, we could afford to live in a nice house in a safe neighborhood and my parents were only working one job each. Life was good, but I was still troubled with questions and uncertainties.

Though my problems at home had settled, my problems at school were just beginning. Due to my introverted nature, acquired from hours of sitting alone and thinking on my own, analyzing everyone around me in school and focusing on my books; I had become awkward. I didn’t know how to talk to people and was overly sensitive to things people would say to me. I had stayed inside for so long due to the lack of children suitable for me to play with in my old neighborhood I had fallen out of shape physically. I think I became socially aware of my standing late my seventh grade year, which I believe to be pretty late. I was an outcast. I began to try to make friends, but I just didn’t quite fit it into this new environment of wealthier children already formed into their cliques. So I did the one thing I knew I was good at: study.

I began to watch the people around me at how they interacted with each other, read books on psychology and took up sports to try to get back in shape. Sports presented me with an even better avenue. I became even more interested in medicine as I became even more interested in the human body. I began to study workouts and stretches, and used them myself. By my Junior year of high school, I was beginning to make friends, even got a girlfriend, and I had become fairly athletic. I was finally playing Varsity football when in the fourth game of the season I had a double concussion, ending my season and my career with football. This sent me downhill again as I struggled with depression. I felt that my world was crashing down around me. Once again, I would sit for hours thinking about my life and the world around me.

That’s when I put things in perspective and set the goals and the standards for myself that I have today. I decided that I would make myself what I want to be. Like the clay to a craftsman, my personality, character and attributes are under my control. I buckled down on school my Senior year making a 4.89 GPA on a 5.0 scale. I began working my hardest in all aspects of life; school, work, and home. I looked at every challenge and opportunity as stepping stones on the road to shaping myself into the person I want to be.

I did this by quitting my job at Quiznos and working for a Best Buy, thereby testing my social skills on a regular basis. I took on more responsibilities from my parents, and began to do community service on my own accord, without the push of Honor societies or teachers. I began to love myself, and then began to start really understanding and caring for others.  To this day I keep these ideas, as I am still shaping myself, still becoming the man I want to be. I can’t tell you for sure what my life’s dreams are, or where I’ll be in 10 years but I’ve got some ideas and no matter what I will be successful. I just need to figure out my definition for success.

Note: Currently I am a Biochemistry Major with a minor in Biomedical Physics at the College of Charleston, planning on graduating Suma Kum Luada within the next year. Unfortunately I still haven’t defined my success. A year ago this next weekend I met a beautiful girl who has completely changed my life. Whereas my previous definitions of success included things like career titles, money, and power they now are more along the lines of family, friends, and quality of life. I can only hope that one day I will be a man of wisdom, looking back on accomplishments that changed my community, country, or even the world, but that I will also be a man adored by my family for the care I gave them.