Monday, August 25, 2008

School of Rock

Our schools are failing and it will have dire consequences for our future. A country with a good education system can overcome economic hardships because the workforce has useful skills that will be needed again in time. A country with poor education could end up getting lost in the world. What is the problem?

Unlike almost every other job in America, teachers pay is based on the amount of time employed, not on skill or effort. That means that the old grungy woman complaining about her husband is earning more money than the young exuberant professional trying to make a difference for her students. That's not to say experience does not play a part. I had some wonderful teachers who were older and knew exactly what they were doing. The issue is that some did not care anymore. One teacher I had would read the class a long article in the newspaper every morning in a tone that would put a cokehead to sleep. I would wake up drowned in a puddle of drool.

Another problem is the system is easily manipulated. The most handy thing I ever learned was how to pass a class without ever reading or paying attention. It helped me to get by later on and never actually learn useful skills, but pretend like I did. This is a tricky situation. Kids are a lot smarter than you think. It may look like they are daydreaming, but really they are thinking of ways to overthrow the system.

Money is not the problem. There are situations where materials are old and falling apart that it would be nice to get a few more books, but if kids in other countries can learn calculus with a rock and a piece of bark, then a few ripped pages is not the issue. The problem is the culture. It is cool to be stupid and nice looking books cannot do anything about that.

This is a difficult problem to solve, but it is essential for the future. The education system is like a failing business, and the only way to turn it around is to get in new ideas and completely reinvent everything.


Anonymous said...

A kindred spirit! I never cracked a textbook, and I was on the Honor Roll. :D

I am thinking I'd appreciate that if it weren't for the fact that my mind rotted sitting there waiting to go to the bathroom, or for the class to end. :/

Around here, we have books and magazines and crafts everywhere. We need more room! LOL!

jq said...

Oh, I get it! School of ROCK! (It actually took me a second.) I couldn't agree more with your points, by the way.

I attended public elementary school through the 6th grade, then I was taken out and placed in a homeschool co-op; the "go-at-the-pace-of-the-slowest-student" mentality of the public school system was stealing any enthusiasm I had for learning. I spent the 7th and 8th grades getting caught up from the sadly lacking public curriculum, then I swept through high school at two grades per year. I graduated with my bachelor's degree at the age of 20, and I'm now "gainfully" employed as a code monkey (programmer). My little brother was in that homeschool curriculum for K-12, and he just graduated with his master's degree (on top of his bachelor's) at the ripe old age of 19; just 2 months later, he's teaching English in a northern province of Japan.

The problem with the public school system is that it's a system. It's a one-size-fits-all "solution" that has to be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator so as to leave the fewest behind. Maybe that's just the nature of the beast, but that's my personal experience.

By the way, my homeschool curriculum was entirely self-taught; we only needed the adults around for supervision. Wouldn't that shake up our tenure system?

Anonymous said...

The greatest challenge lies in winning over the collective neurosis of those who have survived the education system. It takes years to undo the scars! LOL!