Do we need Shakespeare? That is one of many questions one is asked when talking about whether we should teach things that can be googled or not, whether teachers should focus on the knowledge existed in the school standard textbooks or focus on the critical skills and individual attitudes.
To begin with, I studied English literature for four-undergraduate years in Damascus University. The system of teaching was extremely traditional with about two hours lecturing for every class. As students, we did not have the chance to even speak to the professors before and after lectures. Such traditional educational systems do not even focus on the learner; I doubt that instructors notice if all the learners are in the class or not!
Jusoor, the educational organization that I worked at as a teacher, was open to development and modern education so that it brought educational advisers and consultants from many countries such as America and Canada. It also corporated with many other non-profit educational organizations. The advisers and trainers focused on student-centered education. They took into their consideration the traumas that students have been through. For example, RightToPlay is one of the organizations which trained me on how to implement playing, as a right for children, in the educational process. Keeping away the standard school knowledge, I extremely adopted the student-centered teaching methodology as an overreaction to a) the traditional undergraduate learning system I had, b) the students who psychologically suffered from an old schooling system and displacement effects, c) the fascinating practices of the interactive methodologies that many international organizations used to teach. Assessing the results, I would curb my enthusiasm towards focusing on individual attitudes and interpersonal skills only (critical thinking, solving problems, communication). Instead of focusing only on the individual attitudes and interpersonal skills adaptability, I would rather make a balance between them and the knowledge of standard school subjects, which can be googled.
In the last two decades, many educators emphasized on the cognitive skills and how students need to improve them for successful education to fit the 21st century. During my work as a teacher of English, I was teaching the Lebanese curriculum for Syrian students. It was intense for them to deal with, especially after a period of disruption. Keeping that in mind, I worked on enhancing their cognitive skills and responsible behaviors despite how much they achieved in the school subjects. What was the result? They improved skills on how to deal with varied communicative situations, but most of them failed to achieve in their pure academic tasks. For instance, once I taught them how to pronounce a set of words without requiring to memorize them. Correspondingly, they missed how to use that set of words in the appropriate context and form.
My point of view is that we, as educators, should look carefully at how to combine between the foundation and the structure. The foundation is the store of information that we need to resort to as experiments, resources, and proofs, and the structure is the set of skills in how to deal with those previous experiences. Every student learns more successfully if his/her learning is based on previous knowledge and experiences. That, in a way or another, is actually mentioned in Marc Smith’s article Why memorizing facts can bey a keystone to learning, “Memorising facts can build the foundations for higher thinking and problem solving. Constant recitation of times tables might not help children understand mathematical concepts but it may allow them to draw on what they have memorised in order succeed in more complex mental arithmetic.”
I am not saying that educators should prioritize standard knowledge on cognitive skills. But, it is safe to focus on the store of knowledge even if it can be easily googled as long as there are varied subjects where students can access information and interpret them at the same time. Indeed, do not we need novels and poems to analyze? Do not we need facts for science to apply on?