I’ve brought up the subject of education a few times now. I’ve never explored the subject on a grand scale, but I intend to rectify that today. Here’s some of the key issues our society seems to have with education, and what I think we could do to fix it.
In the interest of full disclosure, I want to say right here and now that I was homeschooled and can’t speak with first-hand experience on a lot of what I’m going to be talking about. A less arrogant man would take this as a sign that he should probably just shut his ignorant mouth about it, but I’m going to forge recklessly ahead. I do have some cursory teaching experience (though that’s to an adult population), I’ve helped kids with school in a professional capacity, and what with this culture’s frankly creepy obsession with high school (which oughta be a post in and of itself), I feel I’ve got at least a grip on what we’re dealing with.
I. How To Think, Not What To Think
If there’s one class I could make mandatory for everyone in the US, it’d be a course on critical thinking. The simple truth of the matter is that you can give someone factually accurate information until it’s coming out their ears, but if they don’t know basic logic or reasoning, it doesn’t really matter what you teach ’em.
I could probably launch into some tirade about how kids are taught to be good little conformists and never question authority, but I’ll spare you my political rants.
I’ll just say this: most every felon I work with (I work with felons, by the way) could have avoided his or her conviction(s) if they had just thought rationally about their situation. The fact that the public falls for the same corporate puppet show every four years, or are constantly being manipulated by our media and politicians all seem to stem from the same root problem of lacking basic critical thinking skills.
Fix that, and a lot of our other problems will fix themselves.
II. No More Irrelevant Info
And just who am I to say what is or isn’t relevant? We’ll I’m part of the community and feel I should have a say in the education of the next generation- but hold your horses anyways, I’m not going after music and art classes (yet).
I’m talking about advanced math courses which the vast, vast majority of students will never once use in their daily lives. Be honest, has your understanding of biology affected the outcome of any major (heck, minor) decision in your life? When’s the last time you used anything above advanced algebra?
I’m not one of those obnoxious people who’ll smugly preach that the sole purpose of school to be to prepare you for a job, but I do think education should have some personal application. Let’s be honest, which would be more beneficial to society at large? A required course on chemistry or conflict management?
III. Your Education Should Be Yours
You ever see those pictures of children sitting in the dirt in some war-torn third world country? Ever see ’em being photographed walking barefoot for five miles just to scribble notes on a broken hunk of chalkboard?
You ever wonder why?
Some people say that it’s because education for them is a privilege, and not a right, but in truth, most countries outside of the US offer great public schooling and in this country (good) education is a costly commodity that few people can afford.
No, I think it has to do more with the knowledge that it’s their choice. Most of them could stay at home and work on the farm, or heard cattle, or become a mechanic, or a laborer like their parents, but choose to go to school. “Choice” is the key word here- and it seems to be lacking in Western schools. You have no say in what you’re taught, how it’s taught to you, or by whom. I don’t think you can democratize the classroom on every level, but I think that once you make education something that’s truly yours, you’re bound to take more of an interest in it.
IV. **** Standardized Tests
Or really, evaluations on every level. And we’re not talking about a quiz just to gauge your general knowledge of something, we’re talking about the practice of deciding a school’s funding based on the soulless mass-testing of its students and teachers.
The concept behind this is that schools where students produce good grades must be doing something right, and therefore deserve money, while schools whose students produce bad grades deserve to have funding cut.
Now that’d be a stupid idea if we made the false assumption that all schools are equal, but before even that, we have to address the fact that all schools aren’t equal. Students living in poorer conditions are working with a much, much greater degree of stress than their wealthier counterparts. With a constant lack of good food, basic safety, or stability on any level- how exactly are you supposed to focus on learning already tough subjects?
Yet more and more schools are adopting this policy to secure the funding they’re already desperately short on.
Okay, so maybe that’s not all the problems of education fixed in a single post, but I think we’ve hit on some pretty fundamental questions here in terms of the education debate. Application, indoctrination, administration, competition- slay these dragons and I think we’re well on the way to revolutionizing the educational system and turning what’s the worst part of the day for most kids into the best.
And isn’t that what education should be?