February 28, 2012

Reinventing School

An excerpt from Seth Godin's free e-book, Stop Stealing Dreams (section 17):
Here are a dozen ways school can be rethought:
  * Homework during the day, lectures at night
  * Open book, open note, all the time
  * Access to any course, anywhere in the world
  * Precise, focused instruction instead of mass, generalized instruction
  * The end of multiple-choice exams
  * Experience instead of test scores as a measure of achievement
  * The end of compliance as an outcome
  * Cooperation instead of isolation
  * Amplification of outlying students, teachers, and ideas
  * Transformation of the role of the teacher
  * Lifelong learning, earlier work
  * Death of the nearly famous college
The whole manifesto is a great read, and well worth your time. Sometimes Seth exaggerates slightly, but usually not by too much. While we'll still need plenty of what he calls "factory workers" in the future, it's also true that we no longer need to aim ALL our public school kids in that general direction. Seth says schools should teach leadership and problem solving. Well, yes. But not to everyone. That's kind of the whole problem to start with. (Read on...)

A word of experience from the old Math teacher: High School Algebra, watered down as it is, yet remains the strongest screen-out for college attendance precisely because standard curricula still haven't completely stamped out Algebra's natural demand for decision making and complex analysis, not to mention at least minimal abstract thinking ability. That said, the most prized math teachers today do a good job of leveling that playing field, helping low level thinkers find tricks and "steps" for answering standardized "problem" sets, which represent basic concepts of traditional algebra, but which no longer teach well what Algebra is designed to teach best. (And don't even let me get started on the present state of H.S. Geometry!) I don't personally think most teenagers should be required to learn abstract mathematics. But schools supposedly treat everyone "equally".

In other words, Seth's pretty much right on the money. The biggest problem with U.S. schools is the factory mindset. Someday we're going to quit pretending that one size fits all.

1 comment:

Bitsy Snyder said...

I downloaded it and hope to read it shortly. Thanks for sharing!

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