Sunday, August 22, 2010


This old favorite Pink Floyd act always gets me riled up. I would be the last to say we don't need no education, but the first to say we could use some major changes.

I think that the failures of modern education to educate and the propensity of modern education to aggravate children are deeply related. If everyone just does what I say then students will be happier and smarter. Before I make my proposals, I should list what I see as the biggest problems in education today.

The Problems:
  1. Many students don't want to learn in the current system.
  2. Many students learn far below their potential.
  3. Students frequently disrupt each other, making it harder for those who otherwise thrive in the current system.
  4. Students are regularly put into courses for which they do not have adequate preparation, and occasionally the reverse, leading to inefficient learning.
  5. Students prematurely placed in advanced courses learn to think of themselves as dumb, constantly demoralized by bad grades. The smartest ones, on the other hand, get bored.
  6. Students are useless. They consume great resources, on the order of $10k per year on education alone, and produce nothing besides, in some cases, slight assistance to parents at home.
  7. Students are grouped by age, over a 12-year span, and this highly artificial arrangement distorts their perception of "normal" socialization.
My proposals:
  1. Eliminate the grouping of students by grade and age. Let students choose the subjects that they want to pursue, in consultation with an adviser.
  2. Eliminate grades as we know them. Increase the number of "proficiency" exams available, each of which is offered from time to time, depending on the needed frequency. Such exams would range from a timed 1-minute test of times-tables memorization to a practical chemistry skills exam up to AP calculus exams, etc.
  3. Eliminate diplomas. Already, diplomas are so unequal as to be practically meaningless. Instead of diplomas, let students keep a record of the proficiency exams that they have passed.
  4. Replace classroom "learning" and "testing" with classroom "doing" and "consultation." Students work on projects relating to the theme of the class and present their work to the class or discuss it with the teacher.
  5. Teacher roles: First, answer questions from students, direct them to resources, and make suggestions for study topics. Occasional deliver a brief lecture on a particular difficult concept. Meet with students occasionally to see how they are doing. Remove disruptive or apathetic students.
  6. Make school just 7 or 8 hours per day with a long lunch break and NO HOMEWORK. Even most graduate students can't really focus for more than 10 hours in a day.
  7. Face the problem of student motivation head on.
The last proposal is the most important and the most difficult. In proposal 5, I said teachers should remove apathetic students. In the current system, there would be precious few student remaining after all the apathetic ones left. Where would they go? What would they do? I think that there are a lot of horrible options to consider, but many of these horrible options are better than allowing unwilling students to waste their lives sitting and waiting for school to let out.

First, students who are sick of learning should be given some counseling and possible referral to solutions for distracting emotional or social problems. All who persistently choose not to study, or who choose to study just a fraction of the day, should be put to work learning hands-on job skills, starting with sweeping the school halls, working on the school farm, or washing dishes, in the school cafeteria, and even taking part-time work for local businesses, with all earnings set aside in a coming-of-age account, to be claimed upon a student reaching legal independence from their parents.

The choice between study and physical labor should have no explicit punitive element. Students are not told what to do, between labor and study, and their decisions are respected. The only completely unacceptable behavior is doing nothing. Such students would be sent to some kind of rehab, set loose, or some kind place of extreme boredom like jail if they're a risk.


Blogger Jennifer Jo said...

I particularly like number 1 of your proposal. My 10-year-old is interested in mechanics (at least for now) but he can't get into any classes until he's a lot older.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous goodbadi said...

So many good ideas. I'd enjoy teaching in your school.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

freakwenter for president.

4:46 AM  

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