I teach law, and I try very hard to get my students to form solid arguments, often finding this challenging and frustrating. “Why can’t they clearly articulate what I know they know?” or “why on earth would they use that piece of evidence when it doesn’t really coincide with what the point they are making?”
Students are living in the abstract. Reading is abstract. Math is abstract. What exactly is experienced in the classroom anymore? Does this level of abstraction make the question , “why?” more complicated for students to answer.
In other words, are students less and less able to reason, justify, or make evident because they don’t study tangible experiences? Evidence that isn’t tangible is highly complex to process; the brain has to fill in the missing pieces the best that it can.
As readers know I am very concerned with the for what of education. Charlotte Danielson can teach anyone how to be a good teacher, or what they should teach, but that doesn’t mean just anyone should be a teacher. Beyond the curriculum and instruction, people need to be able to justify their actions in understanding teaching and learning. “Why am I studying/learning/teaching this?” I think students are less and less able to answer this question amidst a curriculum that doesn’t matter to them or doesn’t make sense to them.
As a response to a curriculum that doesn’t reflect clarity of purpose, or their values, I expect students to lash out, “why do we need to learn this bulls***?!” Rarely do I hear, “I don’t need to learn this because A, B, and C.”
There is a clear connection between practical learning and growth as opposed to leading “in the abstract.” Consider how much stronger vocabulary and comprehension are when dendrites in the brain can grasp onto sensory and emotional experiences surrounding concepts.
This puts tremendous onus for the learning process onto curriculum and instruction rather than onto the learner. How dare we ask our students to devote so much of their time abstract thinking. In so doing, we disrupt the healthy development of the curious, experiential human mind.