A trip to the mountains with my nine-year-old daughter. Not long ago, we let ourselves be charged with that tremendous natural and aesthetic energy. They showed each other mountains, talked about what animals live here, why some trees are dead. You don’t need alpine peaks for that fascination, the tundra around Luční buda and Sněžka outlined against the blue sky are enough.
But the days of naive innocence are over. There is a textbook of Native Studies for the 4th grade. The surface of the Czech Republic. OK, dividing it into lowlands and highlands is fine. Some colors on the map also correspond to this. The term “highlands” does have a bit of a national revival feel to it, but that’s fine.
Spindle, sail and endemic
But then we go into detail. We divide the highlands into hilly areas (up to 600 meters), highlands (up to 900 meters) and mountainous areas. And then we learn about individual mountain ranges. It is important to know all of them, including the highest mountains. And we find that some mountain ranges, as we stupidly call “mountains” popularly, are not high enough to be included in “mountains”. Such Lusatian Mountains are simply “the peak”, no matter how much they try to stretch it.
So some mountain ranges are highlands, others are mountains, they can quickly forget the term “mountains”. And while we’re talking about the surface, we mustn’t forget the Dyjsko-Svrateck bay. It is a lowland that we absolutely must know about. Some lowlands, especially those in Moravia, are simply “slums”. We have to put up with it, we can live with it.
But of course the kids can learn it. There is not that much again. Those who want it with their parents can get an A. But the essential question remains: Why? Do they really go to cartographic companies and mycological consultancies from the fourth grade, or to study geography? Why are we destroying their natural relationship with the natural world? Why do we not want or know how to work with their experience and desire to discover the world?
We will simply kill the desire to discover with categories that are long overdue and, from their point of view, also long dead.
Speaking of mycology. It is also not enough to walk in the forest, to perceive it, to learn to recognize mushrooms, to be happy about it. It is necessary to know what is a spike, a spore, a fruiting body, tubes, a ring (a remnant of a veil), a sheath (a remnant of a sail).
And of course there is an endemic and a symbiont.
The tyranny of experts
For many years, critics of the faculties of education have emphasized one of their shortcomings: those schools educate experts in the given subject rather than teachers. They say things have gotten better in recent years, but the problem is still there. And the problem is compounded when those experts, focused on their fields and rightly proud of their knowledge, write textbooks.
Here’s a note: Yes, not all schools are the same, not all textbooks are the same, there are many excellent teachers. And the teacher can teach in his own way, even if he has been assigned a conservative “specialist” textbook by the school. However, I fear (I admit, without having any hard data to back it up) that, on average, Czech schools are just such “killing” institutions.
Back to the topic. An expert naturalist simply cannot imagine that a child would not take away knowledge about what a sailfish or an endemic is from his study. The geographer already fell in love with the term “mountains” during his studies. And the historian, understandably, quite understandably, cannot ignore the Stone Age (tens of thousands of years are like yesterday for nine-year-old children), the Sámi merchants or the rulers of Great Moravia…
That is one side of the problem. The second is more general. But we won’t go into too much detail here, because we would get ourselves into the position of expert, boring and uninteresting teachers. Just a hint: Modern society relies on experts. He advises us on everything – how to run, eat, spend, exercise, love, read, think. Most of the time we don’t understand them, they use terms we don’t know, but we tend to believe them. They have a diploma. The fact that we don’t understand them is their currency. And so we don’t mind that this relationship between “guru” and student is also transferred to schools.
Reformers repeatedly say that parents are the biggest obstacle to the transformation of Czech schools. “We survived it, so our children will survive it too” is the thesis that destroys all reforms. Besides, there will probably be something about those experts, right? We also buy hyaluronic acid cream without having the slightest idea what it is. So let them learn about sailing!
The next generation with a disturbed relationship to the world.