“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
This quote by George Santayana has been paraphrased for the last hundred-plus years since first appearing in The Life of Reason, Volume I.
There is one fundamental problem with Mr. Santayana’s quote, or more accurately, the misuse of the quote for the last century. Unfortunately, so many have taken it so literally that, though our society has progressed and evolved into a global network, our education has not. This is largely based on how we teach not just “the past,” but in general.
As human beings, we do what we know. For many years, we have been taught to memorize in school. We have been forced to retain facts in order to regurgitate those details with standardized testing. Many generations of children have sat in perfect rows learning how to memorize and shut out any creativity or innovation. Sure, we teach them when a war started, or what year an economic crisis began, but we don’t teach them how to communicate or think critically about how to solve conflicts and economic crisis.
What are our children truly retaining? How are their strengths and talents being developed?
Santayana also said, “and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual.”
Let me remind you, savages invented the wheel and created fire. However, let’s focus on the experience our future leaders are gaining in our education system. Too much emphasis is placed on test scores, and not enough focus in placed on allowing our children to identify, or be identified, as productive and innovative citizens of our communities (local and global).
We have allowed ourselves to become stuck in a rut that we began digging a century ago. Even the man who invented the multiple choice test, Professor Frederick J. Kelly, admitted that he made a mistake.
It’s time that we demanded better of our education system. It’s time to begin building leaders and teaching our children to use critical thinking and problem solving. Memorization has its place, and it is not my intention to make light of its importance. However, as I said, as human beings, we do what we know. And, if all we know are facts and dates, we are sure to repeat those very facts. We are, indeed, condemned to repeat them.
What is the future you want for your children? Do you believe they deserve more?