critical thinking

Last week I had some coveted down time and sat down with the remote (mistake #1).  As I flipped through the channels I came across the game show “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?” (mistake #2). I admit I really knew nothing about the show but it seemd cute and my third grade daughter thought we should check it out. As I listened to the questions from the pre-tween set, I found myself growing uneasy. Some of the first and second grade questions my darling daughter didn’t know the answer to. Since I’m the educator around here I took that personally.

I slowly started thinking about the questions and allowed my inner critic to speak to my inadequacy and it rattled off an impressively long list of my shortcomings. But then something rose up inside me. I refuse to compare my success as a teacher to a game show, and a lame one at that. Facts (especially useless ones) are not a gauge of learning. My children may not know silly facts but they are learning to reason, learning to hear the voice of God, learning to love their neighbor.  And those are things facts can’t do.

I turned off the TV and read a book, satisfied that I am doing right by my kids. They are right on track in every way. Thanks to Jeff Foxworthy for reminding me of that.

Comments

  1. You know, I saw Jeff give an interview about this, and he was trying to poke fun at the fact he must’ve learned all this stuff in school but can’t remember it now, so what was the point?
    As a joke it fell flat, but as a statement to the point of public education, I hope it enlightened someone.

    (We aren’t crazy over the show either.)

  2. It all depends on which facts you highlight. My daughter may or may not be able to do very well on such a thing. But then, she can identify quite a number of birds and tell you about their habitat, breeding, behavior, etc. She understands what is going on around her…why bread rises, why our goldfinches are suddenly brilliant, etc. Gradually we will expand her horizons as she gets older, but we start with what she concretely can observe on a daily basis.

    The problem is that the list of facts presented on such shows probably are virtually meaningless in the real world. And they can be exchanged with virtually any other list of facts. I’m sure your daughter knows what she needs to know…and if she understands that, she is far ahead of someone who has mastered any given list of facts.

    If that makes any sense. I’m listening to a program at the same time, so I may be getting a bit muddled.

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