Education in this country has become a laughing-stock. We spend billions of dollars on education, so why do we have such lousy results? Because schools are trying to teach too much.
A good school would teach technical skills, reading, writing, mathematics up to algebra 1, solid history of the US with an overview of world history, an overview of science and biology, an overview of geography, and that’s about it. Schools should also be patriotic. There should be no more nonsense about the US being just another country. It should be taught that it is our country and that we have a responsibility to love it.
Many of our schools are failing on even the most basic level: technical skills. They aren’t teaching the three Rs with any real ability, and that is the first thing that must be reformed. Above all else, the three Rs are needed to build knowledge. Without them education is impossible. Schools must make this their first priority.
Second, we must end this stupid doctrine of jamming students with any and all knowledge. We all know that we use a fraction of what we learn in school. Everything else that is learned but unused is a waste of effort and money. Schools should teach only necessary skills, meaning reading, writing, and math, a solid curriculum of American history, and beyond that, more general knowledge of the other topics listed above, like science. School should not be regarded as a professional teach-it-all learning center for life. It should be preparatory only. For specific learning students can go to tech schools, colleges, and the like.
One of the reasons that students hate school is they know they are mostly wasting their time. A student that hates science knows he’ll never pursue a career that is science-dominant. So why jam his head with stuff he’ll never use? He recognizes the stupidity of it, but he just has to go along with it. Students absolutely love to learn what they are interested in, but they hate to learn what they are uninterested in. Since school is universally hated by students, this should give an idea how off base schools are in what they are teaching.
This is not to say that students should be in charge of the curriculum. But education authorities should know that interests don’t change very much with age. What the youth hates, the adult will usually hate too. Since nobody succeeds in a line of work that he hates, and since that line of work is typically avoided, there is no point in teaching what is going to be avoided like the plague.
As I said above, public school should be preparatory. It should give students the tools to learn, plus give them a solid idea of what the world is like. It should not get involved in teaching specific lines of knowledge except history. History is essential to a citizen but generally useless in a job. Thus this is one line of knowledge that the government should ensure is taught, since simple economics wont ensure that it is taught.
But for most every other line of education, like science and biology, public schools should teach them only generally. These lines are essential to, say, a physicist or a doctor. But they are utterly useless to a policeman or a mechanic. These sorts of topics should be taught as part of a career-specific education, and not be part of the common routine of schooling.
There are in fact two reasons for this. First, as noted above, people only use a fraction of what they learn in school. But secondly, people learn much, much more effectively if they have a real world reason to learn. Say a guy wants to become a doctor: he’ll have a real world reason to learn biology. But say another guy wants to be a lawyer. Biology is useless to him, and he’ll have to drag himself through it. Nothing motivates people to learn like a practical, real world goal. Under the present system of jamming facts into unwilling heads, students end up hating most of the process, take much longer to learn, and end up with an education half of which they can’t even use. Most of these kids don’t have any idea what they want to do with their lives, and thus have no motive to learn. They should thus be given a preparatory education like I’ve outlined above. After that, they should be free to pursue what career they will, and to learn the advanced knowledge needed for that career.
This will produce a number of good results. First, the goal of making lifelong learners will have a chance of being attained. Instead of souring people on education by bludgeoning them with facts, they’ll see education as something that they can actually benefit from. Don’t doubt the poisoning effect that this style of schooling has on people. When people learn to hate learning because their school life was so miserable, it sours them on education overall. If you want to talk about ending life long learning, that’ll likely do it.
Second, it makes schooling much more effective. The present model is to teach facts whether or not they’ll be used. By making education career-oriented, it’ll trim the fat and wasted effort off of education. Instead of teaching information with the hope that the students will run into a career that needs those facts, education will be driven by what is actually needed in a given career. This is a big reason why so many people aren’t career ready in this country. Our current public school model can’t hope to teach career specific knowledge, but yet it gobbles up all the years of young adulthood in mostly frivolous teaching. The result is adults who can’t get more than a job flipping burgers without going to college or a tech school. Thus, just when they should be able to step into a career, they have to go back to school again just to be able to work! And what does that involve? Four years at college and thousands of dollars of debt usually. So, once they hit, say, 23, they can start work they could have done at 18 if public schooling hadn’t wasted all that time.
This plan will meet with a lot of opposition of course. First, there will be the teachers whose jobs will be threatened by cutting down how much public schools teach. We’ll have to develop some remedy for them so they can keep working. Perhaps changing the education model will open up new teaching jobs as vocational teachers instead of general knowledge teachers. Perhaps they’ll have to change careers altogether. In that case, we can give them, ironically enough, educational vouchers to help pay for new career training. In anywise, it is not my intention to leave them out in the cold.
Second, there is a group of people that think learning consists of filling the mind with facts. They actually don’t think of education in terms of what you can do with what you’ve learned. Instead, they consider it something of a spiritual exercise in broadening the mind. Of course, some people do derive keen pleasure from gaining knowledge for its own sake. But most people don’t, and education for the majority of people must be shaped to serve the majority. Most people want to learn so they can act, and education must serve that end. In short, it must be career oriented.
Third, some members of the educational establishment have gotten a lot of power from the current system and wouldn’t want it to go away. They are pretty well insulated via cozy relationships with politicians and bureaucrats and thus would get in the way of reform. In short, there are people that get power from the status quo. They’d fight to keep things as they are, raise hosannas to the present system, and all the while work behind the scenes in government to keep reform off the table. So as usual reform would be a grassroots effort. It would take some effort to get a reform movement going, but I think it is perfectly doable. All it really takes is intelligence and the will to keep at it.
Our current system of public schooling is a mess and a failure. It needs to change for the sake of the students themselves, but also for the country generally. We can’t succeed as a country if the individuals that make it up are being poorly taught. We also can’t grow nearly as well if those same individuals dislike education because of their school years. Additionally, we’re waste billions of dollars because of the inefficiency of our current system. With all the debt the states and the federal government have accumulated, we need to cut waste where we find it. Thus not just education, but also state and federal budgets are involved in this too. For all those reasons, and more still that I haven’t listed, we need to change our schooling system.