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Sunday, June 17, 2012

The future of education.

 "Well we got no choice, all the girls and boys"....Alice Cooper.

Do we have a choice?

 Most of us understand that a solid education is necessary for any person to survive and thrive in this world. We must at least learn the basics of math, science, spelling, English and history, among other subjects. At this point, anyone without a higher education is also really at a distinct disadvantage when they enter the working world. No matter what, all of that still applies.
In the last few years however, lets say the last 20 years, the world has completely changed. The internet and www (world wide web) has completely changed how we create and deliver information. And also how we have access to it. Most don't realize this, but if you did an intensive search, you could literally find out as much information you want about any topic known to man. Probably a much more thorough set of information and facts than was ever possible in any classroom or library of the past.
That is not to say that those places didn't have a purpose. They did. I would not be the writer or informed person I am had I grown up in a village or even a very small remote city that didn't give me access to the knowledge I gained as a child and a young adult.
But that time has passed. In spite of that, in many ways, we still try to educate our young in the "old style" education system. We make them go to school 10 months a year, day in, day out, and then after 15 years of lower education, make them spend another 4 to 7 years at a place of higher education. That is a total of 22 years in some cases. Was that necessary before? I don't know. That is up for debate. Is it necessary now? Certainly not. That is where the argument I will make in this blog begins.

Do we really need brick and mortar schools? I would say there is always a need for them. It is true that we can learn and get all of the information we need to survive in the new reality of the world off of the internet. But even still, on some level, we need teachers to teach those lessons. Not all can learn on their own, or at the rate of others. 
Secondly, without some structure, most kids can't learn and won't stay focused. There are very few who would deny that.
Thirdly, interaction with others of your own age, in a school setting, is necessary. Sure, we play on sports teams, and have our friends who we play with in our neighborhood, but school interaction is something that enhances all that.
If we do need the brick and mortar schools, how many do we need? 
This gets back to the old ways and means of school. Do we need them to go, day in, day out, for 10 months out of the year? I don't think so. I am putting forth the argument that a maximum of 3 months out of the year is what is really necessary, broken up into 3 separate months, spaced out 4 months apart. In this way, we can use our school property and resources in a more wise and economic fashion.
And how much time do our kids need to spend in them? Well, I would say within that one month, they need to spend the five weekdays and all be full days. It should be intensive. Whatever they have been assigned to learn over the course of the 3 months they are away from "the classroom" must be fortified with teachers who can focus on helping them over the rough spots and then testing to make sure they comprehend what they should know. Secondly, this allows teachers to be their for them online to help them when they are not in the classroom. In my mind, it is simply a better way to educate our young. And, economically it makes more sense. It, in many ways, assures that more students get a better overall education.
So why don't we apply this strategy today? Certain questions shed light on this, in my mind anyway.
Are schools just really glorified day care facilities at this point, and should we be paying these large sums to babysit our kids?
In my mind, this is the chief reason we resist the change. It is a valid concern, but not a good reason to run a school system in this way. The only reason a school should exist is to educate. If parents can't afford to have their kids in daycare or supervised, then that should be addressed in the work place and economic considerations made for that. I know this goes against almost everything we expect as a right these days, but these are different times and we have to flow with that. We simply cannot afford to pay teachers, who we educate to become that, to be babysitters. There is simply not enough money for that anymore.
And who really pays for that?
Of course, the taxpayer, you and me pay for we do for everything. I am all for paying my share and making sure that an adult has had full access to a complete education and can compete in the new  global world. But,  I am not in favor of paying to have your kids babysat. If you decide to have kids then you accept the costs of having them looked after. Harsh attitude I know, but that is my position.
Another issue is that of the grading system. Currently, we move through one grade at a time. This is a very rigid system and in my mind has never really worked. It was necessary when all kids had to go to a brick and mortar school to keep the peace and organize the classes. But that time has passed. I don't think, at this point, that we need 12 or 13 grades,  plus nursery and kindergarten. Plus higher education. It is simply too many years. Something closer to 8 or 9 grades and maybe a couple of years of higher learning should be enough. If we delivered the knowledge in a better manner, that is completely achievable,  in my mind anyway.
With the bulk of the learning being online, the students can also move at their own pace. This brings up the question: How do we make sure the kids are doing the work? As with the current system,  the parents have to take an active role. To rely on others to do that is simply foolish. If you can't spend one hour a night, five nights a week, on average, checking and helping your kids, then don't have kids. You accept this responsibility when you have them. 
I know many of you think I am crazy to put out a theory of such radical change as I am doing here. So, why do I think there would be so much resistance to it?
Is it really a case of us so being used to it that we can't conceive of a new way of doing things, much in the way that letter mail has been replaced by e-mail. I think it is. 
Will this happen? Likely not, and in any case not for a long time. But I think the time has come to realize the old system was for the old ways and we need to get with the times.

Schools out for summer. Have a nice day.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the idea of 3 months in, 4 months out. Teens cannot and do not have the developmental capacity to wake up that early in the morning to LEARN. At that developmental stage, they need to sleep MORE in order to absorb material. Second, it is premature to force them to stay in that condition for 10 months straight. This is not only conducive to burnout on the part of the student, but also on the part of the teachers and ultimately, the guidance counselor. I am a guidance counselor at a very large middle school. In that setting, forcing learning is more the name of the game and it produces lackluster results for about 15% of my caseload, if not more.


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