Well, I’m a school teacher, so I’m supposed to know how this kind of thing happens. Except I don’t. I have the same thing with my own primary school pupils. With a very substantial number of them, this sort of basic knowledge simply never gets into their heads, no matter how much it is drilled or explained or practiced.
A lot of it isn’t even in the formal curriculum to begin with, but I make a point of introducing them to the very basic facts of planet Earth: its size, the sizes of the sun and moon, the distances between these bodies, and which orbits which. Not only do I do this when I get them in grade four, I redo that exact work year after year, from grade four to grade seven.
Some of the kids quite simply cannot retain this information - after four years of having studied it year after year, and written exam after exam on it, they still have not the vaguest clue of how big Earth is or how far the moon is; guesses range from, say, 200 km in diameter to 2 million. I.e. they do not have an even vaguely accurate intuition, which would lead to guesses ranging from, say, 8000 km to 15000 or so. The guesses are completely wild.
In short, as far as that basic information is concerned, these kids have learned nothing whatever. Same thing goes for most of the rest of their curriculum: they retain nothing of it.
I have to ask myself how this is possible. Perhaps I’ll eventually find an answer. But I do not have enough experience in the job yet, so at this point my guess is as good as yours. My guess is this: a substantial number children are so severely neglected by their parents that by the time they reach schooling age, they have quite literally sustained a form of brain damage, and there is preciously little even the best school in the world can do for them.
But perhaps I’m wrong.
I actually want to start a whole new thread on the subject of education, because this morning on my long walk I had some thoughts that I would like to bounce off the heads of some of our fine thinkers here…