Children are born intelligent.
Intelligence is not circumstantial. Intelligence births regardless of the circumstance into which the learner is birthed. Black, white, brown. Poor, rich, other. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic. Female, male. Urban, suburban, rural.
Separate from the salty currents of educational politics, each child exists as the landed acre of his or her own future. And, like any two acres, none is quite the same as another.
Such belief guides those on one side of the fault line, our society’s most hopeful citizens and visioned educators. These humanists understand that their job is to elicit that intelligence, to help the learner best understand how to call forth, shape, and use that intelligence. The intelligence, like natural fresh water beneath land, is within the learner, ready to be drawn.
When one believes that the soil is fertile, the water rich and available in the ground, one creates basic expectations for the learner:
- the bar of expectation for the learner must be high, regardless of circumstance
- the expectations must be individualized to the learner’s unique acre of land
- the curriculum must somehow authentically derive itself from the learner’s natural intelligence and curiosity
- in our virtual age, where needed content/information is almost always at one’s fingertips, the teacher’s job is to call forth, shape, and use that intelligence through the teaching of skills, including
- Researching skills
- Reading skills
- Writing skills
- Speaking and listening skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Creative thinking skills
On the other side of the fault line are those who believe that intelligence must, like water, be poured into the learner. Lectures, handouts, worksheets, and a student’s solitary activities guided solely by the teacher or computers fill the time. This side believes, consciously or not, that the soil is deficit, the land beneath holding no or too little water, perhaps polluted by circumstance.