Rote Learning vs. Thinking Skills
To my mind a major problem with yeshiva ed is the emphasis on rote learning of fact as opposed to thinking in elementary school. To take one egregious example, most of what my kids learn in chumash (and my oldest is in 6th grade boy, oldest girl is in 4th) is done via a "teitch" method. The rebbe or morah reads the pasuk and explains word for word, and the kids are responsible for each word and its meaning. The girls usually go a step further than the boys in learning ivrit skills like picking out the shoresh of the word, its binyan, etc. Knowing the material well means being able to read and explain the psukim (and few Rashis, depending on the grade level), but not much beyond that. When you have a moment feel google "Bloom's taxonomy". Benjamin Bloom formulated 6 different levels of thinking skills that occur in education, and corresponding questions that teaches can use to elicit using those skills. The skills are: 1) knowledge 2) comprehension 3) analysis 4) application 5) synthesis 6)evaluation. Without going into great detail, ask yourself what types of questions your children are being asked to respond to when they learn chumash and you will discover that they seldom move beyond level 1 or 2 in the taxonomy. Read the pasuk, explain the words, summarize what happened, mi amar, al mi ne'emar, etc. all all questions that simply call for retaining and understanding facts. Why can't our students move beyond that even in the younger grades? For example, my daughter is learning parshas vayeishev in 4th grade. Some questions that could be raised even at this level:
(Application) You were given a special gift my your Mommy/Daddy - how should you act without around siblings? (Analysis) Explain why Ya'akov loved Yosef more than the other sons? (Synthesis) Before learning the next perek, how do you think the brothers should respond to Yosef's dreams? Why? (Evaluation) Did the brothers do the right thing by trying to sell Yosef? Now, I know many will be surprised by that last question - after all, how can we judge or evaluate the shivtei Kah? I agree! But the way to impart that lesson is not to preach it, but to elicit the student's curiosity with an open ended question that forces them to think about different possibilities.
Even at the youngest grade levels, we should always encourage thinking, exploring, curiosity. Dry facts inevitably get boring - its no wonder students can't concentrate!