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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Education continued...

   Not everyone can learn the same way but our educational system requires that everyone regurgitate the same information.  Those people on Capital Hill who couldn't get real jobs have decided it is easier to throw tests at students and then determine who regurgitated the information best.  This is fine for subjects like Math where the discipline requires you to follow directions step-by-step.  But when we consider subjects that recommend you to be creative, it serves to remind these students that although they may have the capacity to dream and make people love life, they will forever be labeled as insufficient by our educational system.  Robin Williams said it best in Dead Poets Society, "Gentlemen, some of you will go on to become doctor's, lawyers, and engineers.  These are all wonderful occupations that are required for us to live.  English, Music, and History however tell us 'why' we should live."
   Every day that I teach I am confronted by students who just want the answer so that they can write it down and get on to other matters.  While certainly there is a need for classroom discipline some of these students just want to read a book after their homework is completed.  Of course some students want to play on their phones or text their friends but believe it or not there are actually some who want to draw, read, or otherwise engage their minds.  Unfortunately even in private schools this is discouraged.
   In a private school appearances are everything despite the quality of education.  Parents are duped into believing that they are paying top dollar for a quality education when in reality many private schools are simply businesses that provide educations that are not public.  In some cases the students will receive a different education that will serve them better, but all too often the parents intervene and the students are protected from unpleasant grades. 
   Public schools teach students to keep their heads down and do not try to think outside the norm.  Teachers are told and encouraged to teach to the test because that is what their performance is based upon.  If the testing goes well, then the teacher has done well.  Never mind that the tests continually change to accommodate students who score lower...  What happens when you have a exceptionally smart student but cannot afford a higher education for High School?  In public and private schools, much like our society at large, we coddle and protect our students from many things that teach life lessons and then magically expect them to transform into adults when they hit a proscribed age.
   This teacher wants students to learn life skills bot good and bad.  Yes, get that F on a test.  Are you now motivated to do better?  Or is it better to explain to the student that the test was too hard and that they can take another one until they pass.  What serves them better?  We entitle our students into believing they are superstars before they have accomplished anything real.  When they reach adulthood they are devastated when they fail at a simple task and they have not developed the skills necessary to cope with it.  In trying to give them a good self esteem, we have failed to get them ready for a world that does not care about your feelings.  Life wants success and to achieve it, there is no one golden path.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What's wrong with education? Design!

  Our current design for national education was designed before the 20th century.  It allowed for general education but not much more; our needs were very different then.  Not everyone was expected to go to college or even become masters of industry.  The average Jane and John Doe were being educated so that they could read, write and perform basic math.  To be the best farmer or worker you needed these basics and you would be fine.  John could one day become a floor manager, Jane could run a store.  Sexism aside, they had the knowledge if they had the ability.  In this way, children could leave and go to work at the age of ability; 13 or so.  In this time kids were told to get an education and work hard!  The dream it seems was to apply to higher institutions to become doctors, lawyers, etc. 
  Education plans and curriculum were based upon material that taught basics and did not include much in the way of art or music.  They were not absent, but just not emphasized as much.  It was designed so that you could function in a rural or agrarian society without much trouble.  It was not great, but it got the job done it seems.  The attitude was of course what does a farmer or average industry worker need with medicine?  Biology?  Now let's fast-forward....
  The idea now is that we will educate all children the same.  All held to the same standard of excellence.  All held to the same idea that any child can become anything they want!  What a great society we live in that our children have this opportunity!  So why as a nation do we suck at education?  Has the government failed to provide for its youngest citizens?  Are parents failing in their most basic duty?  Maybe teachers no longer have the skills to produce good citizens?  The answer is all of the above.  The simpler answer lies in that we have failed to realize that education hasn't changed in over 100 years.  More later...