Balance Amid Extremes
We seem to live in a world of extremes*. If you want the greatest thrill or the most action or the largest fountain drink, go for the "extreme." If you want to see the greatest weight loss, the most amazing renovation, or the most rock bands in one arena, look for the listing with "extreme" in the title.
Heroes go to extremes to save or care for others. Workers go to extremes to succeed in their jobs Families and friends go to extremes to love and protect those they hold most dear. In those cases, the connotation of "extreme" is, to most people, positive.
On the flip side, if someone disagrees with your political opinions, holds fast to a religious faith or some other belief, or argues a point for which you just don't care, he is an "extremist," and the connotation is not favorable.
My question is: What has happened to balance?
For years, I have seen the scales of opinion eventually swing more wildly between all sorts of extremes, each demanding to be embraced whole-heartedly, even in education.
Although extremes are found in all realms of life, this blog is not one to debate political, religious, or social topics. It is, however, one to look at topics in education from the viewpoint of a language arts, social sciences, and study skills teacher (a lasssst thought). Sometimes those other topics affect education, but I will focus on education, sometimes discussing issues but often giving teaching tips and looking at curriculum, learning styles, and other aspects of pedagogy, especially for homeschooling.
With that in mind, I ask again: What has happened to balance?
For the last fifteen years, the buzz word of education has been S.T.E.M., an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. Those are important subjects, but are they more important than language arts and social sciences, or even the fine arts? However, the subjects that do not fall under the popular acronym S.T.E.M. have been relegated to the back seat of education. For years, even prior to S.T.E.M., the music and fine arts in some schools had been defunded or completely eradicated (though the athletics departments seem to survive).
Isn't the largest division in most universities, the college of arts and sciences? (University divisions could be a topic in itself: Why is the college of education separate from the college of arts and sciences in some universities? Isn't teaching not only an art but also a science? Don't teachers teach the subjects found in the colleges of arts and sciences?) How can college preparatory education prepare students for college if not in all subjects? More preparation in the core subjects would allow students to explore and discover once they are in college the fields for which they are best suited and can make the most impact.
Nonetheless, what has happened in the 21st century is that students are entering college lacking the basic skills in reading and writing and even math but thoroughly entrenched in technology and lab experiences (much of it learned outside a classroom at that). Thus, colleges and universities have been obligated to spend significant amounts to create remedial reading and writing courses so that their accepted applicants can pass and graduate (For more, see the following articles: http://www.highereducation.org/reports/college_readiness/gap.shtml and http://www.wsj.com/articles/remedial-courses-in-college-stir-questions-over-cost-effectiveness-1416243572). These remedial classes just add to the skyrocketing cost of tuition.
Reading well and writing well are requirements for success in all subjects, not only language arts. All the engineers and builders in my family (about half of the family) can tell you that. Companies and even government agencies are now hiring consultants to teach grammar and communication skills to their employees, mostly because those who have graduated in the last decade or two have not been taught those skills (future material for discussion).
So, I ask once again: What has happened to balance?
It has been neglected.
"Is balance important?" some may ask.
Yes, I believe it is.
Investigation of its importance will take several posts. Over the next few weeks, we will discuss some of the arguably greatest minds in history, the structure of the human mind, and educational research, methods and programs.
What do you think? Is balance important, particularly in education?
*Word Origin and History for extreme
extreme. (n.d.). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved July 04, 2015, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/extreme