I Think we Need a Scorched Earth Policy to Fix Education
This is something that’s been kicking around the brain for a while, but it boils down to this. Our schools are as broken as our highways, and nothing we do can renovate it. If we want to make American schools worthwhile again we need to redesign it – from the ground up.
This is because of 2 reasons. The rise of the internet, and the detached parent epidemic due to the shifting workforce. The problem exists because there is less and less ability for parents to teach valuable life skills to their children. Some can call this a helicopter parent effect, or the every kid is special and deserves a trophy culture. I think at the end of the day it boils down into something wrong with education from the onset.
This problem though was majorly screwed up with the rise of standardized testing to ‘compete’ with other countries like Japan. That alone would be cause for changing our current system, but then the internet throws into entirely into whack. Some will say this sounds sort of futurist – but we have to face the fact. The internet has fundamentally changed how we store/access/ and understand information.
Recent ways to ‘measure’ intelligence often pull from basic trivia questions (who else remembers Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader). In short that information even if it is retained is categorically useless to an adult. Now before those who enjoy history or science get in a tizzy let me explain. In short knowledge you are forced to learn is useless to those you teach. There has to be a want – no a need to learn something.
If you think then about how our schools are setup it’s no wonder we get high-school kids who maybe go to a community college, but ultimately end up meeting someone, drinking too much, getting a kid, and settling down. Maybe they become good at their job, or maybe they just shift around – but they think they’re done learning, and in a few ways – they have.
That’s quite plainly – fucked up. Then on the other side of this coin you have kids watching YouTube videos to learn how to do magic or understand black holes, or become crazy good with a guitar. Schools in the old archaic system are designed to do 1 thing. Shuffle a kid away from their parents, offer some social skills, or often social anxieties, and rubber stamp them at the end saying they have some ‘core level’ of knowledge that makes them okay to exist in the real world.
However they aren’t ready – just look at every time someone has to fill out a tax form, cook themselves a meal, fix something broken in their house, or get into a voting booth. People have been utterly failed by the school system to be a functioning adult, and yet they know the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. I think we need to flip how we teach people. Skills should be a forced learning set given to each student, and knowledge is something they seek.
How to do this? Easy we fundamentally change schools. We start even in Elementary school by providing kids options and information on things they can do or build, we get them more recess and physical activity, we give kids knowledge about food. As the years progress we ramp this up, we make trade schools more the norm providing kids options on skills they could learn. We also do core things like classes on how to repair basic things, we force them to learn to cook, or sew, or build. We turn academic lessons from a lecture into a conversation, with information and class style being entirely unstructured. A kid asks a question on something related – derail for 30 minutes into that topic. We break up academic subjects into something students elect to take based on their interests.
If we want to fix our schools we need to change our thinking into providing kids not a set of core knowledge, but a set of core life skills. We then give them the means to learn and explore knowledge naturally, because once they realize that information is not guarded by some old teacher with a chalkboard they will never stop learning. Everything we try to do now to sort of ‘patch-fix’ this is like trying to band-aid a gangrenous arm – it’s time to chop it off and build a robotic one.
Anyway, I’m sorry, but that just happens to be how I feel about it. What do you think?
The Buffalo is Nerdfit's longest active content contributor. Having helmed various podcasts (What's Nu in Animu, WritersCast), columns (I Hope Nippon Sempai Notices Me, Advanced Game Theory, Booze Reviews, Anime Season Previews, etc) - currently he writes a weekly article column of 'Buffalo's Shit to Think About'