Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Why Do We Have Schools?

Have your kids ever asked, “But why do I have to go to school?”

This is in essence the same question that Seth Godin poses to us as adults in Stop Stealing Dreams. Godin is an avid believer that the modern education system was built to create products of the industrial age – compliant, productive, and processed members of society. He discusses how our children are trained to be consumers and are suffering from two natural inclinations:

If it is work our kids try to do less.

If it is art our kids try to find a way to do less.

By art Godin does not necessarily mean paintings and sculptures, but creatively using the brain – inventing.

So Godin asks us: What is school for?

As technology weaves its way into our classrooms, we are at an unprecedented crossroads in modern education. How will we use these new tools at our disposal? And what will education look like if we decide that the answer to Godin’s question isn’t about compliance or consumerism? I wholeheartedly agree with Godin that the rows of desks and formulated check-lists for treating children the same is not how we lead with innovation and it isn’t how we allow our children to become their own true selves.

8 Steps for Better Education

Godin lays out 8 major steps he believes need to be taken in order to turn education into more of an opportunity for kids to thrive on their own ideas and less of an environment where they learn to comply and fit in to predetermined groups.

  1. Do homework during the day and listen to lectures at night. This new trend is actually being used at schools across the country (although at a minimum). Our foreign exchange student’s chemistry class is arranged this way, and his teacher said that this is an attempt to allow for more freedom during class time for kids to explore ideas instead of sit passively. Lectures with graphics are made available online by the teachers and assigned for the students to watch before class. Class time is then a period to ask questions and do experiments.

    The obvious drawback is that not every child has access to internet capabilities at home, therefore putting uneven pressure on them to find other sources. Another hurdle for teachers using this approach is that some students will simply not watch the videos if there is no tangible grade that can be earned directly from watching them.

  2. Everything should be open book and open note because there is zero value in memorizing. While I can agree with the sentiment, this is not a practical blanket statement. When we send our kids out into the world there are certain things they need to have memorized – phone numbers, how to spell their names, etc. When we work, even at jobs we love, there are certain aspects that require memorization. I think that Godin would have made a stronger argument had he specified that technology is providing short-cuts so we need to make better decisions about what our kids really need to memorize, and what information is available at their fingertips.
  3. Students should have access to any course, any time. Godin’s argument is that we should get rid of prerequisites and the formalized order that by which we insist children learn. We need to allow them the freedom to learn about topics as they are interested and motivated to do so. Technology allows access to courses and experts that we have never had before.
  4. Provide precise, focused education and do away with mass education. This is one of my favorite points from Godin. Our kids aren’t all the same, so it does not make sense that we insist that they all learn in the same ways, at the same pace.
  5. Get rid of multiple choice exams. Godin firmly believes that these were only created because they were easy to grade.
  6. Measure experience instead of test scores. Here is another favorite of mine, but how do we transform the expectations of employers who have also been trained to look for test scores? I am starting small in my own home, providing as many experiences as possible so that at least my children will know what excites and interests them. Other education systems in the world value real world experience much more than the American system appears to do – it would be a valuable step to pursue systems where apprenticeships could be seen with higher value.
  7. End compliance as an outcome. Again, this is a wonderful talking point, but only something that can realistically be achieved when the other points are addressed. If Godin’s goals are reached, then this one is a side-effect.
  8. Put a priority on cooperation vs. isolation. Rarely in our adult lives, in the real world, are we isolated from the ideas and energies of others. Even I, as a writer (likely to be envisioned as a solo job) collaborate and cooperate with clients every day. Cooperative learning projects in schools can help teach the communication and cooperation skills necessary to succeed in relationships, education, and future careers.

Godin ends his presentation with three poignant tips:

  • Transform teachers into coaches.
  • Create lifelong learning goals (finish in-class working and have job experiences earlier in life).
  • Do away with “famous colleges” that charge money at astronomical levels for educations that are not inanately more able to land kids dream jobs.

So I’ll end this writing the same way Godin ended his presentation – go invent something. Challenge children to invent something. Figure it out. Get the wheels turning. Learn by doing. Imagine the possibilities of where we will go when we give our children the freedom to really learn.

Related posts:

  1. American Schools – An Envy of Asian Education Officials?
  2. Schools Wasting Money and Failing Our Kids
  3. Changes in High Schools = Reduced College Debt

View full post on Parenting Tips For Raising Successful Kids |

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