Sunday, June 28, 2009

Random thoughts on Edumakation

South Carolina's constitution calls for a public education system. The courts and the legislature have interpreted that to mean "minimally adequate," & some days I think that's not being met. For years, SC would entice business with the catchy slogan, "our folk don't know jack, but they work cheap." And the school system taught folk to read enough to read their Bible (sort of), to show up someplace on time, and to sit still until a bell rang.

SC wasn't alone with the factory model of education. Children rode in big yellow buses to little red school houses where they learned to sit still and regurgitate information. Their fathers rode on gray buses to gray buildings to sit in cubicles or on factory lines and regurgitate information. The training was minimally adequate. And it was training.

As the nature of the work changed, workers needed to be more technologically and scientifically aware, and so technology and science was emphasized. Nothing creative --- just enough so they don't break the laser.

Have you seen the e-mails people send around about "The good old days" and what a high school student knew in 1880 or whatever? Those things make me nuts.

What we think of as education --- great works, great discourse, great thoughts --- have always been limited to the elite. Whether they thought the masses were incapable of learning or they thought it would be dangerous to teach them, there was no widespread education. In The Good Old Days, 99% of high school graduates may have been able to read Ulysses in Greek, but then, very few people actually went that far.

Now we want to educate all kids. It's hard, but it isn't impossible. Administrators, teachers, politicians, and parents whine about each other. Teachers are greedy, parents are slack. The politicians don't want people to be smarter than they are which really lowers the bar. Administration hires another consultant for half a million dollars, then cries because they can't afford books.

Everyone is invested in the education system. Everyone has an agenda, and far too often, it's not what is best for the kids.

What is the answer? I don't know. But I'm thinking about it. And this I do know: there is not one answer. People learn in different ways. People relate to different things. People want to do different things and need different skill sets.

Good teachers already know this and act on it. How do we expand this so that it is understandable to a larger population? Should we clone good schools and good teachers? How do we encourage innovation with accountability?

I don't know, but I'm thinking about it.

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