Just because the educational system adapted to new technologies does not mean it has changed
We are expecting future generations to be more innovative in order to save this planet from its doomed future, but how are we supposed to do so when we are using the same educational system that has been used in Ancient Egypt? Some may say that we have come a long way, but they are only lying. Social systems have not been updated but adapted to technological changes. Humanity has been reading off the walls of caves, from papyrus, books, and now from screens, but they are still doing the same action.
The gessoed board that you see above has been trending online lately, although it is not a recent discovery. It has been in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for almost 100 years since it had been gifted to the museum by Edward S. Harkness in 1928. Gessoed boards were used by students to practice their penmanship since 3,000 BCE. Their distinct alphabet was made of hieroglyphics with about 1,000 distinct characters representing sounds and concepts.
This specific board has also been presented in William C. Hayes’ book “The Scepter of Egypt” where he writes that the exercise scribbled on the board is the work of a student named Iny-su of Sekhsekh. The text is a letter to his brother Peh-ny-su where he comments as if his brother was a wealthy authority figure. The marks in red represent the corrections made by the teacher based on spelling and grammar. Egyptologists (including William C. Hayes) believe that this board dates back between 1981 and 1802 BCE.
Such exercises were usually given to students that were prepared to work for the government. You may be surprised, but the government of Ancient Egypt was extremely organized by recording everything by writing it down. This lead to a large number of texts that needed to be written and fast, therefore great penmanship was really valued. The Greeks and Egyptians during the Ancient period really understood the importance of education and developed the system that we use even to this day.
Students are given a certain topic which they are being taught the basics. Once they grasped the basics, they are given homework to do their own independent study. After some time they take an exam to test their knowledge on that certain subject. This is how they did it 4,000 years ago and it is exactly how most countries still do it. It could be argued that this is one of the oldest social systems which hasn’t been changed.
Being forcefully fed information and having to regurgitate it on a piece of paper has worked, but it is quite ancient. I believe there is something more effective out there, actually many other methods from which students can grasp more. The main problem with this classic education system is that it thinks every student learns the same way.
Some students are fortunate enough to have a photogenic memory, whilst others have the ability to calculate thousands in their minds in seconds. We all learn in our own ways and the most important aspect is that some students are better in practice rather than in theory, which is why some people fail written exams.
It is not only about what each student prefers or what they find most efficient, but about the practicality of the assessment. I look back at all of the subjects that I have revised in secondary school and I am still waiting to use the Pythagorean theorem in my day-to-day life. A new educational system would have to think about the practicality within the assessments given to students.
A study conducted in 2012 by Mark Huxham, Fiona Campbell, and Jenny Westwood from Edinburgh Napier University had looked at the time of assessments students preferred (Oral versus Written). The results showed that most students preferred oral assesments based on their attitudes and performance because they found them to be more practical in establishing a professional identity.
It is not just about efficiency and practicality, but also about exerting the student’s creativity. We are all interested in different professions and subjects of study, but how are we supposed to see what we are best at if we all follow the same subjects at the beginning of our educational journey? Just like in Ancient Egypt, kids were given homework and it would be corrected based on criteria. Those criteria set by the educational board are what stop creativity.
Creativity is supposed to be embraced by the freedom of accepting mistakes for what they are. The best way to learn is by making mistakes so shouldn’t we be pushed to make as many as possible? The means of writing and reading may have changed but the exercise of learning still remains the same. As described in another study, the learning of each student should be personalized based on the characteristics of the student as well as its cultural background.
Hybrid learning has been the latest attempt at changing our educational system, but all it did is force it to adapt to the digital era. The same exams are taken now on a computer, making it a bit easier to cheat. It could be argued that hybrid learning had actually pushed back the evolution of the educational system by removing the practicality aspect.
We need to give students more freedom towards choosing their own curriculum from a young age that focuses more on building a practical future. Rather than spending years and thousands of dollars trying to figure out what they want to do in life, would it not be easier to have them reach a consensus from a young age?
The Shocking History Of Baby Cages
Baby airing was an odd parenting trend that happened during the pre-war era
In the 1930s, the baby cage was quite common in Britain. It was one of the strangest inventions of the 20th century because it required mothers to hang a cage from their windows and put their babies in it. Otherwise known as “the window crib”, it was considered to be a helpful device for kids.
Baby cages were designed in a way that made it easy for babies to crawl in and receive fresh air. Many mothers relied on it as a convenient way to keep their children outdoor. The women simply hung their babies outside windows so that they could be free to do other household chores.
Due to its level of popularity in London, the baby cage was largely recognized by some city councils. A child care organization known as “The Chelsea Baby Club” also encouraged it and showed support by sharing more baby cages to mothers residing within the city.
The general idea behind the invention of baby cages was to help parents residing in city-based apartments who couldn’t have easy access to backyards and parks. Indeed, as more people occupied the cities and apartments got smaller, the use of baby cages became more popular.
Also, another major factor attributed to the adoption of this sort of baby care was that it seemed appealing and gave the babies some time to have outdoor relaxation in the best way they could.
It was believed that the cages kept children out of harm’s way while it gave the families more space. For some parents, the cage doubled as a place where babies could sleep once removable curtains were attached to it.
Several other advantages were also attached to the use of baby cages. For instance, in 1884, Luther Emmett Holt wrote a book that helped new mothers with their babies. It was titled “The care and feeding of the children”. This book became a popular guide for parents with little children.
A part of Holt’s book covered “airing”, a process that emphasized the importance of letting little children get fresh air regularly. In his book, Holt further mentioned that:
“Fresh air is required to renew and purify the blood, and this is just as necessary for health and growth as proper food.”
This submission by Holt led many London moms to believe that exposing their children to cold temperature through airing helped with blood purification and built their immunity. It also convinced them that airing improved a child’s appetite, aided digestion and generally promoted good health.
Emma Read, a woman who invented the “portable baby cage” in 1922 explained that her dream was to provide an escape for babies in overcrowded environments by putting them in cages. This was because many families relied on baby cages because they lived at the top of high buildings and had no garden.
As crazy as it sounds, some parents never really saw the use of baby cages as a bad thing. Their actions were simply in response to the advice that sleeping out and getting cold air made children healthy and strong.
The baby cage resembled a tiny cage where pets could be kept, rather than what a child should be put in. It was made of wire netting and supported on the side with a cloth net to prevent the children from crawling into the room. Chicken wire and metal were usually attached to the external part of the window frame.
Soft fabrics or baskets were usually placed within the baby cages before suspending them outside the window frames. The little space where these cages were located can be compared to where window-based air conditioners are now kept today.
Women and caretakers would simply put their babies in the wire baskets while they attended to other demands at home. Some mothers would even include toys to keep the babies busy while suspended above level ground.
When this act was the rave of the moment, the owners of some London apartments would intentionally lure families into their buildings by making provisions for baby cages.
In 1906, Eleanor Roosevelt purchased a chicken-wire baby cage and placed it in her New York home where she put her daughter, Anna. However, Anna’s loud cry alerted the neighbours who noticed this odd method of childcare. They threatened to report to the Society for Prevention of Cruelty Towards Children.
In her autobiography, Eleanor later admitted that this came as a shock to her because she thought that she was being a modern mom.
When world war II began, there was a gradual reduction in the use of baby cages. Although its popularity increased again after the war, its use completely stopped in the 1950s.
Surprisingly, there were no reported cases of injuries resulting from the use of baby cages.
However, as the laws evolved, there were increasing concerns around child care and safety. This made more parents became more aware and they stopped this practice.
Apart from safety concerns, lack of scientific validity also caused a huge decline in the use of baby cages.
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