Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University and voice for the autistic community, came to Elon on Tuesday to discuss the discrepancies in the American education system, particularly with disabled students.
Grandin, 70-years-old, is herself autistic and struggled through school in her younger years. Now she has a Ph.D. and 15 honorary doctorates from universities across world.
Her talk tonight outlined what she would do differently to develop children’s brains in their younger years. She stressed she learned best through visualizing concepts.
“The worst things schools have done is take out the hands-on classes,” she said to the crowd of 125 in McCrary Theatre.
Thomas Edison and Elon Musk were two main figures brought up in the discussion. They were excluded early on in life because they were different from others — Edison was said to be addled by his teachers and Musk appeared deaf and was bullied. These instances are why Grandin said the education system is flawed. She has determined schools need to expand classes that foster creative thinking and problem solving, such as art and sewing, playing musical instruments, and theatre.
Grandin discussed how some students are labelled with disorders such as dyslexia, ADHD, or even depression or anxiety. She said these labels prohibit certain students from having the confidence to share their ideas and produce achievements in and out of the classroom.
“Kids are interested in things they get exposed to,” said Grandin.
She believes children, especially in their adolescent years, should be limited to an hour of video games per day. This way kids will learn how to work much earlier in life, whether it be running yard sales or volunteering at a retirement home or animal shelter.
Autism, ADHD, depression and anxiety are also illnesses Grandin said limits children from an early age.
The attendees in McCrary on Tuesday night spent the evening learning more about these various types of setbacks students face.