In Brazil, every student of English as a second language hears the phrase “The book is on the table” at some point during their studies. The sentence has been so overly used during English classes, especially when teaching prepositions, that it has become a nation-wide joke. The belief is that if one knows how to say “The book is on the table,” then one knows how to speak English, and that it is the most crucial sentence to be learned in English.
This simple sentence is certainly not enough for a person to speak English fluently, but it serves as a metaphor for the act of simplifying education. The same words in the sentence have been stressed so often that students believe that, upon learning them, they will have gained enough knowledge of the language. On a broader scale, this happens daily at education institutions in Brazil as well as in America. Certain materials are considered of utmost importance and are thus drilled into the students’ heads, leading them to assume that once they memorize the given content and properly regurgitate it, they will have become sufficiently educated.
In this column, I’d like to explore issues and challenges in the education system of America and Brazil, often contrasting them and possibly mentioning other countries as well. “The book is on the table” also sheds light on the need to have an open conversation about education, always considering the possibility of changes and improvements that would ultimately steer institutions away from teaching students to reiterate lessons (that will likely soon be forgotten) to encouraging them to think critically about the world and their role in it.
Until next time, I’ll leave you with this video.