It is July 4th

 The students at the Dharavi Municipal School struggled to explain to me exactly what their national anthem meant, but when I asked one of them her religion, she said, “We are not Muslims or Hindus, we are Indians.” I watched yesterday as two of my fellow Niswarthians struggled to teach geography to a room of 25 6th graders yesterday. They quickly grasped the concept of countries being grouped into continents, and then asked why the land didn’t float away in the midst of all that ocean. Obviously, it took a little while to explain. But this is a dichotomy that comes up often when talking to the TFI fellows’ students. They understand the bigger concepts—they know the founding principles of India, or have internalized them somehow—but often get caught up in the basic facts—they might not be able to find India on a map. But it’s better, I think, that they have a conceptual understanding, and I have infinite respect for the teachers that have taught it to them. When we talked to Abhijat at the end of our second day, he asked us to prepare a lesson that would “expand their minds.” He told us that whenever they had drawing time last year, the students would simply copy each other. “Now that they’re in sixth grade, it’s time for them to think for themselves.

How much of Andover is like that? We’re asked to do problem over problem in Physics and copy labs from our binders for Chemistry. Even in English and History, students talk about writing to fit to their teacher instead of celebrating creative thought and original form. We need to start thinking for ourselves and prioritize understanding and application over memorization and conformity.