Re-Formatting Public Education: We Need to Overhaul our Premises AND Overhaul Schooling
As I indicated in an earlier post, one of my resolutions for the coming year is to write the book that has been waiting to emerge for over a decade. The working title of the book is “Re-Formatting Public Education”. The VERY ROUGH DRAFT of the book is provided below:
- The purpose of schooling has changed. We need to use universal schooling to develop highly motivated self-directed learners who can adapt to a changing world and interact empathetically with people from all cultures and all walks of life…. and we need to be certain that every child has the same opportunity to develop these skill sets.
- The factory model we use today for public K-12 education never was, is not, and never can be successful in achieving the goals it was designed for and cannot and will not prepare students for the challenges our children face in the future.
- The traditional four-year college is a relic of the 19th century and aspiring to expand that kind of education to an ever larger number of students is foolhardy.
- Our ongoing debates about schooling are based on three flawed premises:
- The purpose of K-12 schooling is to prepare students for college, for the workforce, or both
- Students should spend 12 years preparing for each of the above
- The current K-12/Post-secondary model should remain in place but be engineered for the future through the use of technology
In the book I will suggest the following:
- We need to examine and accept the unravelling of the structure of “schooling” and try to design a better format for schools than the one we have in place today
- “Schooling” might begin at different points for different children and be “delivered” by interlocking social agencies and/or parents as well as schools
- Academic instruction needs to be highly individualized and provided “just-in-time”
- The curriculum needs to include units designed to explicitly teach children how to interact empathetically with each other and to expose them to individuals of different cultures and backgrounds
- Students should be expected to do service work in school and in the community, work that matches their physical, emotional, and intellectual maturity
- High school should be eliminated altogether and replaced with learning centers linked to employment and/or post-secondary colleges.
- Post-secondary schooling will become more ad hoc and open-ended, with degrees being emphasized less and micro-courses valued more.
The more I look at where both political parties are taking schooling and the more I try to examine our current state of affairs in a clear-eyed fashion, the more I think we are debating the wrong issues. Virtually all of the debate is over how to engineer the current “factory” format for schooling. I think we need to stop squabbling about whether more teachers are needed to man the factory floor. We need to stop debating about whether the use of big data will help us rate teachers— the “factory workers”— better and/or sort and select students— the “factory product” more effectively. We need to stop debating whether parents can choose one “factory” over another. We need to move beyond the arguments we are having now premised on the fact that the factory model is the only and best way to school children and look at a completely different model.