Angelina Jolie criticized the American educational system on Friday, saying that it hasn’t kept up with modern methods and needs. During an interview about her role in Kung Fu Panda 2, she told The Independent that she doesn’t feel that American education allows for enough customization of the learning experience. She said that it’s up to parents to figure out how to “navigate through the school system” and to figure out how to “tailor the education system for their children and their interests.”
While I can understand the need to tailor an education to a child’s strengths, tailoring it to their interests doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of children. If the kids are interested in non-academic subjects, that shouldn’t take the place of the things they need to learn. Imagine letting kids pick out whatever they want to learn at the expense of everything else– you’d get a country of video-game-playing kids who can’t read. Oh, wait…
Alternatives to an American Education
The actress and her partner, Brad Pitt, have found alternatives to the American educational system. Preferring the French system, they have enrolled their children in the Lycee programme — a system of French education that operates in many of the countries the family has lived in. Jolie said the family travels with teachers as well as nannies to help the children learn about other cultures, and to help the family with “following a curriculum legally.” Most parents try enriching their kids’ education with some extracurriculars, but the Jolie-Pitt aversion to standard education seems a little extreme.
Learning outside of school is a priority for the family of eight, Jolie said. Because she doesn’t believe that the educational system has advanced along with the rest of society, she stresses following their interests instead of focusing on schoolwork. Once the legally mandated schoolwork is out of the way, Jolie pushes them to explore other venues. She said she’d rather they spend time playing a guitar or reading than doing schoolwork. That may fly for the kids of Hollywood royalty, but it’s not practical for anyone without a trust fund and a guaranteed career path. These kids could grow up with no skills at all other than guitar playing and they will still have doors opening for them.
With the American system lacking and too few opportunities for kids to find their own interests, Jolie said, “We as parents need to think about how we can shake it up and make it better.” Is she taking too lenient a view toward education, or are her frustrations with the system on target? What if what her kids are interested in the topics their schoolwork covers? Should she be discouraging those interests so easily? Assuming that academic subjects can’t be interesting, engaging or creative is doing her children a serious disservice.