What Does Education Look Like? Part III: Immune to Elephants

Hannibal crossing the Alps with war elephants.

Hannibal crossing the Alps with war elephants.

It’s been awhile since I posted the first two parts of this series, but the contrast between a true, living education and the stale, dead imitation that often replaces it continues to niggle at my thoughts. So here’s another brief scene that highlights the contrast.

Scene 1

The elephant turned his trunk toward the audience, and surprised them with a cold shower. The twins pressed closer to the edge of the enclosure, shaking water from their eyes. “Read us what it says, Momma,” they asked, looking at the sign on the rail.

“It’s an Asian elephant,” ventured one twin, pointing at the map.

“And it eats roots, grasses, fruit, and bark,” said the other, looking at the photos of the elephant in the wild.

The twins listened intently, eyes studying the elephant’s leathery hide, giant ears, and stringy tail, as their mother read the information. They had watched a National Geographic video earlier in the week, and had been talking about Hannibal crossing the Alps with elephants during the Second Punic War.

Scene 2

Later, another family stopped at the elephant pen. A toddler laughed and pointed, while a slightly older child tugged at her father’s arm. “Please, Daddy, can you read what it says?”

As her father began to read the information, the oldest child sighed in boredom and pulled out his iPod. He didn’t bother to look at the elephants– after all, he had learned all about them in first grade. The class had seen the giant leg bone of an elephant, felt a piece of dried elephant hide, and filled out a worksheet on the life cycle of the elephant. What more was there to know?

Inoculate: To treat with a portion (usually dead) of a virus or infective agent to prevent disease.

To think about: Why does institutional education so often inoculate students against further learning? (There’s a clue in the definition above.)

Previous posts on this topic:

Part I: What is a Chicken?

Part 2: What Does Education Look Like? A Look at Socialization

2 Responses

  1. Angie says:

    This is a beautiful picture of education done right vs education done horribly wrong. Thank you for putting it so succinctly!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Angie. So many things in institutional education inoculate our children against further learning, but real life can keep that from happening.

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