Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thoughts on Education

"We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today." - Stacia Tauscher

I have been thinking a lot about schools and why they just don't seem to work anymore. America has thrown so much money at schools over the last few decades, and the quality of education has declined, seemingly, in proportion. Here are a few of my ideas about why this is so.

First, and I know this is completely politically incorrect to say, but mainstreaming has to go. When there are 20-30 kids in a classroom, all of varying abilities, no one gets to really do any quality learning. The kids who are at the top have to wait and sacrifice. The kids who are the bottom try their best to keep up and, more often than not, get lost in the shuffle. If mainstreaming were really to work, class size would need to be kept very, very small so that everyone could get the attention he or she needs. Before anyone gets bunched undies, I know of which I speak. I have a child with "special needs" (I hate that term, because every child has special needs). There is no way he would survive in a "normal" classroom. But, that doesn't mean he is unable to learn. He is doing beautifully with me working with him one-on-one. If he were in a classroom where he had to fend for himself, he would have curled into a ball and quit ages ago.

Second, this business of testing, hanging the world on test scores, and teacher "performance" is ruining education. Kids aren't really learning anything. They memorize stuff that they will need to spit back onto a bubble form and then they forget it. There is no imagination in schools anymore. There is no discussion or play - just this crazy teaching to the test. Don't even get me started on this crazy new math the kids are doing! For God's sake! Math has been around for thousands of years; just teach it the way it's supposed to be taught!

Third, there seems to be an expectation in America that the Japanese or Finnish models of education should work in the United States, but for some reason, they are not. No, and they never will. The US has too many cultural differences in its population to allow that to work. Also, because our social systems are so differently structured, education is just not a priority in many areas. Getting food, keeping warm and staying alive are definitely higher priorities in many parts of the US. Education is expendable.

I don't know how to fix any of this, it's just something I am very interested in. I will probably return to this topic occasionally. Feel free to comment.

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