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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor Emeritus of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra.

Geniuses who couldn't stand school

Thu, 29 Oct 2015 11:39:00 +0000 Published in Tarragona Newspaper

The case of scholars and geniuses whose curriculum vitae states that they were "bad students" is not uncommon. Faced with their poor grades and absences from classes, teachers considered them incapable and even invited them to leave school.

No less frequent is the case of those who were considered "good students", due to the fact that they did not miss a single class, and obtained high grades that ended up being mediocre professionals.

How to explain this apparent paradox?

The former were bored and rebelled against a teaching limited to the transmission of canned knowledge. Their wide-ranging intellectual curiosity was not being addressed in the classroom, prompting them to seek answers outside the school walls. Had they adapted to the closed and self-sufficient school system, their potential aptitudes would have been left fallow.

The latter adapted passively and uncritically to the system. Their goal was not to learn and know, but to obtain good grades through a memorized study of subject , based exclusively on the notes taken in class. They knew that the literal repetition of what was transmitted by the professors guaranteed them approve.

The latter approach is typical of the "traditional school". Edison, Hitchcok and Jobs were considered "bad students" (among many other geniuses).

What are the main characteristics of the traditional school?

-It has its origin in the traditional pedagogy that emerged in the 17th century with the principles of "Method and Order". It was founded by Comenius and Ratichius;

-Highly values rote learning;

The protagonist is the teacher, who elaborates the subject to be taught and uses only the expository method to transmit it in the form of finished knowledge.

Excessive recourse is made to the external discipline , which involves corporal punishment.

Thomas Edison

The boy who had to leave elementary school prematurely because he was considered too clumsy by his teachers, would become one of the most important inventors of the twentieth century. Thomas's poor grades were not due to his clumsiness, but to the climate of fear created by Professor Engle, coupled with his lack of ability to make anything interesting subject. The boy refused to learn anything from report.

Alfred Hitchcock

At the age of 11 his parents put him in a high school with an iron discipline that included humiliating punishments, which awakened in him a guilt complex that would never leave him and that would be a recurring topic in his brilliant films of intrigue and suspense. At the age of 13 he was an ordinary and unmotivated student in all subjects, because he could not find answers in them for his wide-ranging curiosity. Instead, he was passionate about reading about crime.

Steve Jobs

The creator of Apple and Macintosh has said that he was very bored in elementary school classes because he hated "memorizing stupid data ". In high school he was not attracted to the academic environment, considering it artificial and out of touch with reality; he preferred the atmosphere of work in his father's machine shop. When he later entered the high school Homestead he was very interested in mathematics and electronics. In one of his first summers he got a work at the Hewlett-Packard instrumental department . At that business he saw a computer for the first time and was very impressed.

The pedagogical movement of the New School, which developed at the end of the 19th century and the first third of the 20th century, was an alternative to the traditional teaching . Its valuable innovations allow us to be even more aware of the limitations of the Old School. They gave rise to new and valuable pedagogical movements, such as, for example, Montessori and the Decroly School, which postulated adapting the teaching to the interests of the child. But these were isolated experiences that hardly served to change the method of the schools.

The aim was to make the child the center of the process of teaching-learning. To this end, the aim was to mobilize his activity, "make him do", with the purpose aim of developing his aptitudes and creativity. The teacher ceased to be a "trainer" to become a guide of the teaching-learning process.

Memorism was replaced by self-directed learning through experience.

This latest innovation has great possibilities, but also risks, as seen in a news story:

 "A progressive school encourages students to discover for themselves heliocentrism and the origin of man."

"During one of the experiments one of the children has suffered burns and another has been cornered by the others after claiming that humans and cats might have a common ancestor."

self-assessment for those responsible for Education: Are today's students suffering in a traditional school or enjoying themselves in a renewed school?

It would be very interesting to include those two questions in a survey. Probably most of the answers would be similar to the results of the report PISA.