The next few major posts I make are going to outline a fairly major change that I think should be made in the curriculum of our public schools. It basically boils down to 3 new courses that I collectively call “Mental Fitness”. The point of Mental Fitness would be to train students how to think clearly and efficiently. The more I think about it, the more surprised I am that this isn’t already a major subject on par with literacy, math, and history.

The three subjects of Mental Fitness would be Critical Thinking, Mnemonics, and Morality. Critical thinking is pretty self-explanatory as far as what it’s trying to teach. It would start with younger children practicing decision making in various hypothetical scenarios, identifying how choices in sample scenarios affect the outcomes of those scenarios, and coming up with alternate decisions that they think would be better. It would progress from there to middle school students discussing the reasons behind various current events and analyzing the thinking process behind important court decisions, etc. At the high school level it would introduce formal logic concepts such as syllogisms, common logical fallacies, etc.

Mnemonics would also be fairly straightforward. It would mostly be taught at the lower grade levels, but it would be reinforced by actual use all the way through high school. It would introduce the most effective memory techniques, then provide extensive drills on applying their use various actual subjects. I don’t hear a lot of discussion about mnemonics, but anybody who’s studied or used them can attest to how amazingly effective they are. Training children in mnemonic techniques until it’s as natural as reading and writing to them would result in an entire generation of memory prodigies, at least compared to the current situation.

Morality would round out the Mental Fitness triad. This would be the most difficult and disputed subject of the three in regards to actually planning course materials. Just mentioning the notion of teaching morality in school makes me shudder at the cacophony of protests that would be made by the hardcore separation of church and state people. Nevertheless, that is precisely why it’s so badly needed. Religion has basically had a stranglehold on the topic of morality since the dawn of history, but in modern times few people seem to take religion as seriously as in times past. We seem to have thrown morality out with the religious bathwater. Also, people are very defensive about precisely what moral values they believe their children should have, and wouldn’t be comfortable with what they might perceive as moral indoctrination by the state. It wouldn’t have to be that way, however. My next post will elaborate on the subject of morality with regards to how it might be effectively integrated into basic education.

The ultimate goal of Mental Fitness, then, would be to enhance the basic mental skills of students; vastly improving their memory, enhancing their ability to discern what is relevant or important in attaining goals, and teaching them about why the best or most important goals are generally the ones with the highest moral values. In short, a very mentally fit student would be a knowledgeable, discerning, and responsible individual who is trained and ready to pursue whatever career choices or higher education options that they feel is best. Their Mental Fitness training is something that would continue to repay the effort invested in it throughout the rest of their lives.


~ by jneuhaus on June 13, 2008.

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