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Monday, June 20, 2011

NO to subjects and NO to requirements

I have been spending a great deal of time in Europe lately, where the talk is about what to do about the awful governments that countries like Italy, Greece and Spain seem to be saddled with. (I am not saying the U.S. Is any better, maybe it is even worse -- I am simply reporting what I am hearing.)


In the course of one of these conversations, the talk turned to education, as it tends to do when I am around. The suggestion was made that schools should require students to learn about how government works, or maybe how it should work, in order to help citizens make better choices about who governs them and to be better at it when they are actually part of the government.


I replied that this was a fine idea, especially if we let students run simulated governments rather than simply learning political theory. Feeling emboldened, a woman who had raised a family and who, I think, felt that she hadn’t done such a good job, asked if maybe some courses in child raising shouldn’t also be required.


I certainly agree with this as well. I tried to convince the developmental psychologists at Columbia, when I was building Columbia on line, to do exactly that but they, of course, wanted to teach about research.


Whenever there is a roomful of people talking reasonably about education there are many reasonable suggestions. The problem is, that soon enough, well meaning people would wind up designing a system that looks a lot like the one we already have in place.


No one ever agrees to eliminate history and all agree that mathematics must be useful even if it never has been useful to them. This goes on and on until students, in the hypothetical system being thought about by intelligent people, is as awful as the one we have now.


At some point people, and by this I mean school boards, governments, universities, and average citizens have to get over the idea that there should be any requirements at all in school.


Now I realize that this is a radical idea. Do I mean students would not be required to learn to read or write or do basic arithmetic? No. I mean after these skills have been mastered, students should be let alone, or rather enticed, to find an interesting path for themselves. The schools ought to be constantly and diligently teaching students to think clearly and should not be trying to tell them what to think about.


We will never change education as long as we hold on to our favorite subjects and insist that they be taught. Everyone has a favorite subject, or has an axe to grind, or has a stake in something not being eliminated. Soon enough it is all sacred and school is deadly boring and irrelevant.


Anyone who has ever been part of a curriculum committee in a university knows what I am talking about. Everyone fights for their subjects.


NO to subjects and NO to requirements. Let students learn to do what they want to learn to do. Schooling should be about helping students find a path and succeed at what they have chosen to do.



6 comments:

andso0n said...

I think children should learn to take sincere interest on the interests of other people, not just their own.

Of course, this does not entail they should become specialists in every subject, but it entails that their minds should be open to understanding different pursues and methodologies.

I agree students must be given the opportunity to discover their own skills and preferences, but also to learn about the world they are living in (yes, for me this includes history and mathematics). What I find mistaken is not approaching both goals with equal strength.

Juan Domingo said...

A school with no curriculum, trained to think, where trainees are responsible for their learning and the system is only to guide, to facilitate better learning.

juandon

Wesley Fryer said...

These are radical ideas indeed, but certainly ones we need. I'm quite concerned that here in Oklahoma, "education reform" for our newly elected leaders literally means following the dictates of Jeb Bush and his Florida-based foundation. Many are talking about "educational choice" in the form of publicly-funded charter schools, one is talking about REAL choice for students as you are which involves CURRICULAR choices.

Wesley Fryer said...

These are radical ideas indeed, but certainly ones we need. I'm quite concerned that here in Oklahoma, "education reform" for our newly elected leaders literally means following the dictates of Jeb Bush and his Florida-based foundation. Many are talking about "educational choice" in the form of publicly-funded charter schools, one is talking about REAL choice for students as you are which involves CURRICULAR choices.

KTame said...

Another problem with telling students what they need to learn (and do) throughout their whole school career, is that all of a sudden at 18 we say, "OK! Now... pick a career path! What do you want to do for the rest of your life?" They DON'T KNOW because adults have been telling them what to learn and do their WHOLE LIVES. Then all of a sudden adults want them to take the control, and they complain that students can't think for themselves. Well, duh... They have no IDEA what they like... they have barely even been given choices let along control over their own learning.

It's a disastrous situation in so many ways.

FRANCISCO said...

º El sistema de subsistencia de la humanidad, es hoy; la competencia, independientemente de si es una dictadura, comunismo, demócratas socialismo u cualquier otra forma inventada. Esto es como decir que estamos todos en guerra, los unos con los otros.
El objetivo de este juego es obtener una ventaja sobre los demás y perpetuarse, lo que automáticamente nos convierte a todos en corruptos.
Debido al consumismo que no se puede parar o seria el paro y por lo tanto el caos, la contaminación y la destrucción del medio ambiente es inevitable dentro de este sistema. La tendencia al monopolio u oligopolio es la norma.

La confianza en las personas es baja ya que todos tenemos que engañar de algún modo para vender nuestros productos o nuestro trabajo en el mercado.
Y ¿Por qué, estamos en competencia?—En realidad, no lo hemos elegido—Nos ha sido dado, ya que viene de serie con la adopción de un sistema monetario.
O sea, que El sistema Monetario que tanto ha dado a la humanidad ¿es nuestro peor enemigo de repente?—La respuesta es que fue bueno en un momento histórico que funcionaba pero estudiándolo hoy, vemos algo incongruente:

Aunque el sistema monetario, ha tenido varias crisis desde su existencia, siempre cumplió con sus dos reglas en existencia: 1ª-Crecimiento 2ª-Escasez.--- Hasta que en 1850, con la maquina de vapor, nuestra producción, aumentaba eliminando la segunda regla-Escasez- y posteriormente se ha ido eliminando la primera –Crecimiento- ¿y como hemos salido de esto?:
Se a creado la escasez: con la publicidad, para consumir mas de lo que necesitamos--- con la Obsolencia programada, para que todo se rompa mas rápido—con la Obsolencia percibida, para que tiremos cosas que aun valen etc.
Se ha aumentado las posibilidades de crecimiento, endeudando a todos los países, mas de lo que pueden pagar—Ignorando el derroche de materiales y energías, solo para tenernos a todos trabajando sin ver que gastábamos, mas energía de la que producíamos etc.