Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Is Wrong With Schools

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

What Is Wrong With Schools?

November 19, 2008 – 6:49 am by Brendan

Here in the United States we have many schools that are as good as or better than any school in the world. We also have many schools that are at the bottom of the barrel. Of course, we are a first world nation. There are many countries where school is a luxury that the majority of the population just can’t afford. For the majority of the population around the world, going to school is something that does not happen on a regular basis. For the majority of the population around the world education is something you fight for, not something you have a right to.

The question is will the next great improvement in education come from scholars in the Western World or will it come from desperate need in the Third World? As it stands now, there are so many people around the world, who realize that the only possible way out of poverty is education. And they’re willing to do or try just about anything that might give them an education

In his blog Ben Gray asks, “… if we were to stop and start over entirely, what would that look like?”

I like to think about that sometimes.

Here in the United States education reform is usually little more than private school, charter school, or voucher. Basically, some slight, miniscule variation on what we already have.

Charter schools aren’t really different from regular school. They still depend too much on the hard work of teachers and administrators. What happens when the teachers get tired and slow down? I don’t mean to say we don’t need hard working teachers and administrators. The problem is what happens when the people get burnt out? What is the school going to do when teachers stop working 60, 70, or 80 hours a week? Will we still be showing gains, during NCLB testing?

In the past I have written about public versus private schools. There have been studies that have shown that when you take into account socio-economic background then public schools do a better job of educating our students than private schools. (”What Do We Know About School Effectiveness?” in the May 2008 issue of Phi Delta Kappan - The Journal For Education.)

Sugata MIta gave a talk on Ted about the “hole in the wall” experiment. The hole in the wall is simply an experiment where they put a computer in a hole in a wall in India, and watched what happened. What happened was that children who had never seen a computer before taught themselves how to use a computer and then taught friends how to use a computer. These were children who went to some of the worst schools in the world, if they went to school at all. When the opportunity to learn presented itself the children seized it.

Some interesting quotes from the video:

The author Arthur C Clark said to me, “when a teacher can be replaced by a machine he should be.”

Sugata Mita says, “I’m proposing that an alternative primary education … required where schools don’t exist, where schools are not good enough, where teachers are not good enough.”

“We found that children 6 -13 years old in a connected environment could teach themselves.” … “But it had to be in groups.”

In my opinion real change in schools will be something that we don’t today recognize as school, or something we currently look on as sort of a fake school. As an educator I might just be too close to the current system to see the future. On the other hand I might be the exact right person who realizes that the problem exists and we need to look outside the box for the solution.

The real question is what ideas for education do you have? And please don’t tell me our students need to stop this foolishness and go back to filling out worksheets. That is the old view of school we are talking about the new view of school.

What do you think is wrong with schools?

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