Last week, I listed out my problems with education that currently exist. Today, here is my solution.
Fair warning: This is a big soap box for me. As a researcher and rookie philosopher, I must admit I’m blinded by my own thoughts. I’m sure there is a gaping hole in my theory, but that is what comments and discussion are for. Education should not be changed by one man (though it’s odd that is how we started on our current educational system – See Horace Mann), but the conversation should take place.
Alas, my glorious plan to fix education.
Fixing education, I warn you, is no easy task. Education used to be a priority. Up until the start of the 20th century, it was a huge reward to go to school. Education was usually reserved for the wealthy, as many poorer families needed all the help they could get just living day-to-day. While my educational history is not nearly as strong as it should be, a mixture of events took many children out of the fields and into the classroom. First, attending school (for at least the first parts of a child’s life), became required. Secondly, it became less necessary for them to work to help their family. Though many families still struggled, at that point it became more about quality of life than living and dying.
With that being said, my point is that the educational system we are using today was built for a different America. I don’t think many will argue against that, but for it to be changed, it will require a refocusing of American priorities. Our way of life will have to change. If you think about it, our lives still revolve around school, especially the school calendar. Life slows down in the summer and during the holidays. Why? Most of us are ingrained with the school calendar because we were conditioned to be that way as children. (I believe, on some level, the behaviorists are really onto something…) Summer is a time for vacations and taking a break. Where does it say it should be that way? Nowhere. Every single American was conditioned to be that way when we were young.
The Big Idea
In my opinion, what education needs is to adopt is the one-to-one apprentice model. That’s right; there’s the big idea. Of course, there are many, many problems and it will take decades for the ramifications to play out, but that is by far the best way to educate someone. In fact, until this current form of education took place, which was essentially the model we were using. Of course, then assembly line was introduced, and what a great idea for schools! You have one “mentor” and many “apprentices” and knowledge is transmitted from the mentor to the students.
One of the many side effects from going this direction, however, was the loss of hands-on learning. In the apprentice model, the learner would work with the mentor and do the job; making mistakes along the way. Our education model now is purely theoretical. Essentially our education model now is a simulation. Students are given problems based on what they might see in the “real-world”, but in a safe environment. Consequences are limited to a poor grade.
In the apprentice model, consequences are real. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why our current system is starting to fail – to students, the consequences are small.
Yes, this is not easy, nor is it very practical in today’s world. I believe most educators hate the education system, and many probably have great ideas to change education. But, it’ll never happen. Why? We don’t really want it to change. Changing education would mean a paradigm shift and a restructuring of America, and in truth, we (as Americans) aren’t ready for it. We accept testing because it is the best we can do in this paradigm. It is a number, something we can all relate to. Though most of us hate math, it’s still comforting to see a number because it is something we can measure and that makes assessment easy.
However, education will change when we stop caring how much Child A learns in a month. We start to be concerned with the “Whole” Child, not a stupid multiple choice test that we can measure.
I would call my plan the Whole Child and focus it on learning certain skills the student, a) shows a propensity for, or b) shows an interest. Of course, it wouldn’t be that simple. There would be much more involved, but say this decision comes at the end of 5th grade. Or, perhaps whenever they’ve mastered basic foundational language and logic skills. The crazy thing is, we have a line like that today and it is called graduation. I’m saying that line needs to be move way up, so when a student is ready as determined by their knowledge and not their age, that student will be able to move on.
Well, there is the big idea.