Let’s Hear It For Health!

The Fundamental Problem of Education(FPE) may be stated thusly:  How to create a learning environment in which all students achieve to the best of their abilities.  The beauty of this statement is that it encompasses all possible educational methodologies and approaches, putting the emphasis on learning that applies to every individual.  The FPE also demonstrates how complex the educational process really is, and that is especially important in the U.S. where education is linked to numerous oversimplified, but catchy slogans, i.e.  “No child left behind”; “Preparing every child to learn”, etc.  There is also a plethora of educational programs in the U.S, whose proponents make grandiose claims of educational achievement.   But rather than attempt to unify such diverse programs, there has been an increase in “fragmentation”.  However, all approaches to education that neglect the inherent complexities of the learning process, are mere shadows.  Such approaches are splinters off the FPE.  Of course, the great teachers from Socrates to Korczak, from Pestalozzi to Sukhomlinsky, have always realized the many-facetedness of learning.

The term “learning environment”  represents any environment where learning takes place.  Perhaps,in the future, it may turn out that schools are not the best places for children to learn.  Learning through the internet is now quite common.  Home schooling is becoming more popular.  Nature, a meeting hall, or various clubs and organizations are all potential learning environments.  And the number of students involved might range from 1 to n. Thus, the FPE could encompass a potentially infinite domain.

The FPE leads directly to the question:  How can we improve a learning environment?”  We might provide stimuli such as games, videos, stories, or anything that furthers a student’s concentration.  Or, we might try to reduce the obstacles to learning.  Such obstacles are either internal or external.  An internal obstacle might be a student’s limited genetics, possible brain disorders, etc.  There is little we can do in such instances, barring a lobotomy, radical brain surgery, or employing a technique we do not know at present.  External obstacles are another matter altogether.  Such obstacles may be treated with positive results.  Reducing external obstacles is similar to opening a clogged air vent that now allows the fresh rush of air.  Relaxation, concentration, meditation offer ways to deal with external obstacles, but it is important to know what such obstacles are.  It turns out that health courses which treat both a student’s mental and physical being are seminal courses, because they have the potential to truly reduce the obstacles to learning in a meaningful way.  Let’s hear it for health!

About Robert M. Weiss
From an early age, I've taken great pleasure in reading. Also, I learned to play my 78 player when I was quite young, and enjoyed listening to musicals and classical music. I remember sitting on the floor, and following the text and pictures of record readers, which were popular in the 1940s and 50s. My favorites were the Bozo and Disney albums. I also enjoyed watching the slow spinning of 16s as they spun out tales of adventure. I have always been attracted by rivers, and I love to sit on a boulder with my feet in the water, gazing into the mysteries of swirling currents. I especially like inner tubing on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Since my early youth, I've been interested in collecting minerals, which have taught me about the wonderful possibilities in colors and forms. Sometimes I try to imagine what the ancient Greeks must have felt when they began to discover physical laws in nature. I also remember that I had a special passion for numbers, and used to construct them out of stones. After teaching Russian for several years, I became a writer, interviewer, editor, and translator. I continue to delight in form, and am a problem solver at heart.

8 Responses to Let’s Hear It For Health!

  1. berlioz1935 says:

    Hi Robert, what you are writing about the education of children makes a lot of sense. I learnt about Pestalozzi when I was a child myself. He was of the opinion that children learn from adults’ behaviour and he asked them to set a good example. Socrates of course asked his pupils questions while he was walking with them. Sitting in a class room and listening to the teacher makes children drowsy. When they have a rather uninspiring teacher they are gazing out the window and the clouds gliding across the sky become more interesting.

    I read about Sukhomlinskij on another of your posts. His ideas about teaching are really inspiring. I’m not surprised that he was thinking about the soul of the children. Slavic people have much better relationship with children then Anglo-Saxon have, Russians i.e., would go to any length to please a child. Meaning of course, they get involved with them.

    In today’s Western society children are seen as a cost not a gift to be nurtured. Both parents often go to work and leave the education to overworked teachers of which they think that they have too many holidays (vacations) anyway.

    Peter

  2. Thank you, Peter, for your kind words and interesting thoughts. American society also has to deal with the phenomenon of the single mother, a matter of concern to all of us. Sukhomlinskij made it a point to emphasize the importance of mothers, and their role in education.

  3. berlioz1935 says:

    “the phenomenon of the single mother”
    Hi Robert, as a humanist (very few of them around) Sukhomlinskij would have been very much interested in the single mother. The Ukraine had suffered from the famine and two world wars a lot and left scores of families without a male bread winner.

    Today, in our society, we find the “the phenomenon of the single mother” self-induced or through the abdication of responsibility on the part of pleasure seeking males. On the other hand here in Australia fathers are often rejected by super-confident mothers, in the misguided assumption, that the children are better off without father.

  4. auntyuta says:

    “An internal obstacle might be a student’s limited genetics, possible brain disorders, etc.”
    No need for a lobotomy. Each child should be taught according to their ability. A child who is a very slow or a limited learner just needs specially trained teachers for guidance.

    I hate to see that teachers have to stick to a specific ‘curriculum’. This may be all right for the average student but certainly is not at all suitable for a slow learner, neither is it suitable for a specially gifted child!

    I agree, it is very beneficial if certain times are set aside when all different children, whether slow learners or so called gifted children, can have a good time together and help each other with something they like doing. Still, there should always be qualified adults around who can give some guidance.

    “Relaxation, concentration, meditation offer ways to deal with external obstacles” – – –

    I imagine, even if there are no external obstacles it would help if courses like these were available to all children on a permanent basis!

    If a child sits in front of a computer for too long this can become a health hazard. (Same with adults too!) Children should be made to do some physical exercises in between lessons.

    What about art classes? Making music, singing, painting, woodwork, sewing, knitting, gardening, even debating and writing stories, all this surely does contribute greatly to a child’s relaxation and concentration. A well trained teacher should take care to find out where a child fits in best to get a lot of enjoyment out of these classes. Not all children have equal talents in this regard. However I am sure every child is able to do something that is somewhat artistic. As far as meditation goes this should be practised in a very calm environment. Certainly every child benefits if being taught the practice of meditation!

  5. auntyuta says:

    My goodness, I left out dancing! And what about sport? There’s swimming, tennis, football etc.

  6. I can’t imagine that a school today is the best way for children to learn, with the exception of children who fit naturally into rote learning. But I do think school has its place, and can kickstart the educational experience. After that, a family system needs to put a whole lot back into the chid’s extracurricular experience to round out what school cannot possibly provide. I would love to see a child offered more creative ways to learn, and I think we need to continue to advocate for that. But in the meantime…

    • rommel says:

      Very nice point, Debra. The thing with a school is that the teacher has to find the efficient way to educate the class as a whole. If you can really look at it, the profecient way to educate is to take a focus on each individual. And what you said here is where parents come into play when it comes to learning development. It really doesn’t stop with the book, assignments and tests.
      As per the learning ‘environment’, I agree it matters. There’s definitely a difference between a ghetto looking learning environment against a spick and span learning environment. But I also think that a book, a desk, a blackboard and some visuals and props will work as fine. Sorry Robert if this hit a cord. It just that it comes to mind how schools put so much money in upgrading their establishment, but not necessarily for the ‘education’ value of the students.

  7. auntyuta says:

    In the meantime, Debra, I think a lot of children are left out who’s parents cannot provide for extracurricular experience!

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