Lately I find myself pondering our educational system – OFTEN. I am struck by the idiosyncrasies inherent in the system as well as the mixed messages society is giving about the value of education. This has caused me to ask myself MANY questions…. such as:
- Is education, in its current form, really valuable?
- Are we REALLY preparing our children today to inherit tomorrow’s world?
- Are we REALLY providing our students with the skills that they need to survive in this world?
- When we push higher education, is it REALLY in the best interest of every student?
I will break down some of my thoughts.
1. Is education, in its current form, really valuable? Many of us have seen the talk by Sir Ken Robinson who discussed the fact that schools kill creativity and seem to have it all wrong. He often argues that our schools, designed to educate students for the industrial age, have completely missed the mark in our current technological age. I find that I often get very frustrated when I hear Sir Robinson speak. Why? I actually agree with most of what he has to say. My frustration is that he seems to point out all the problems and I am struggling to understand what the solution may be. Yes, the first step is for us to be willing to acknowledge that there may be something radically wrong with our educational system, with the way we educate our students, with what we choose to believe is important…. but WHAT are we going to do about it? That is the challenge to educators today.
2. Are we REALLY preparing our children today to inherit tomorrow’s world? From what I understand, the career path my daughters will most likely be on has not even been invented yet. How can I prepare my girls for a career that does not yet exist? I have my own personal philosophy in this area. As we do not know what they will inherit and the job market is becoming an ever-fluid one (gone are the days that a person works in one place/ location until retirement), we need to prepare them with two critical skills: creativity and adaptability. Without these abilities, they are doomed in the job market of tomorrow.
3. Are we REALLY providing our students with the skills they need to survive in this world? I am not sure we are. Our educational system has become more and more academic, particularly in high school – and I am beginning to question this move. How many individuals, even those who have masters and doctorate degrees, use calculus on a daily basis? monthly? yearly? How many have used calculus since they graduated high school? Does one need calculus if they are not going into career fields that require higher mathematical skills? I would argue that my high school time might have been better spent in auto mechanics, typing, or home economics. These programs have been cut from so many schools – they are thought of as “less than” the courses that are necessary to gain entrance into top universities. Yet, they teach valuable skills that we would use on a frequent basis. Are our universities also focusing on the wrong requirements for admissions? Are they so focused on academics and community service that they are missing the need for students to learn how to cook and repair their automobiles?
4. When we push higher education, is it REALLY in the best interest of every student? I have asked before, and I will ask again – Is a UCLA graduate with over $100,000 in debt for a liberal arts degree who delivers pizza really better off than a 20-year-old high school graduate with no debt who has delivered pizza for two years solid and has some money saved? I would also ask “why is it less prestigious for children to go to trade schools?” I know that if my daughters choose to become auto mechanics they will have a good, stable career path ahead of them. If they head into a liberal arts college, they will compete in a saturated job market for mediocre entry-level positions while trying to pay off a mountain of debt. Recently my oldest has started talking about wanting to be a hairdresser. At first I was taken back, I wanted all my children to go to college, get a degree, etc. When I took a step back and thought of my daughter and her interests and what may be best for her I realized she wants to go into a respectable career that pays very well and provides her with a solid career field that will never disappear – it is a great choice. And she can enter with training that costs considerably less than a liberal arts degree and will be making money much sooner than a student who now needs a master’s degree to gain an entry-level position.
Food for thought…. so, what do you think? Do you wish you had auto mechanics instead of calculus? Is your psychics or chemistry class of use to you in your life, or would typing or home economics been more valuable? Do you agree that we are focusing on the wrong things in education today? If so, what are the right things? Are we giving our children what they truly need to make it in the world they will inherit tomorrow?
Today, 274 days ’til 40, I continue to pursue answers to the tough questions regarding education today. I believe that part of the solution is to continually re-evaluate and ask ourselves if we are giving our children, our future, what they need. Together we need to figure this out.
May 23, 2012 at 00:20
I am completely sharing this with a friend of mine.
May 23, 2012 at 09:20
May 23, 2012 at 00:23
Education played and still plays a huge role where I come from, but like you lately I have been thinking about passion vs practicality…I have huge student loans and I am interested in a PHD…but truth be told I just want to write and do public speaking. My parents had other plans for me, my dad wanted me to be a doctor, mom wanted me to be a pharmacist…it confused the heck out of me when my interests were elsewhere…even now I still wonder about the point of it all. I guess education has some prestige to it…at least to many Nigerians :). Thought provoking post, thanks for sharing.
May 23, 2012 at 09:22
Yes, education has prestige for many people – in many countries!!!! 🙂 I am also contemplating a PhD – like you, I worry about the loans it would take to get one, and would the degree in the end benefit me enough to make it worth taking more loans? Would it increase my earning potential enough to pay off the loans? Ah the questions we all ask!
PS – My father was pushed towards medical school when he did not want to go (he wanted to be a chef) – it was no surprise that his undergraduate grades were never good enough to actually get into the medical school he did not want to go to. The sad thing is, he was an amazing cook and had they let him follow his passion, he would have been a fabulous chef!
May 23, 2012 at 00:25
So true in the UK as well. When can we as a society learn that children are valuable for themselves; not for their academic ability or whether they can pass exams at certain levels.
May 23, 2012 at 09:20
Yes, I ask the same questions all the time!
May 23, 2012 at 00:29
I just heard this morning about a study that said ft college students spend 12 hours a week preparing; their grandparents spent 35 a week.
I think many can see the system is not working; you mention calculus and using it in life. What about basic arithmetic? Are we teaching THAT? At the store today, the check out person couldn’t calculate the actual change due in her head. She had accidentally hit that I gave the exact amount.
Are we so focused on pushing for accolades that we are forgetting the POINT of education? Are we teaching children to think outside the box and be creative and come up with answers, or are we focusing on memorization so they can pass that yearly test? Are we teaching them to deal with life, or are we boxing them in?
Excellent post. Very thought-provoking!
May 23, 2012 at 09:19
Wow, that is crazy! I wonder if it is because so many more students are going to college today that it does not mean the same thing. When their grandparents went to college they really cared and knew that their success (or failure) would effect their career… back then you went to college for your career… now students seem to go to college for no reason at all, other than that is what society tells you to do – so it is not seen as a privilege and students do not really invest in it as they used to……
I agree completely, we are missing the point of education altogether – do we even know what that point is anymore!
May 23, 2012 at 00:32
I too, have often listened to Sir Ken, and found myself in agreement. I also agree with you here, he never really poses a solution so ultimately what does he have to say? And I say this with great respect for the man and his intellect.
Until we break the 19th century model of education fully, we will be working within a broken system.
May 23, 2012 at 09:17
Yes, so very true.
May 23, 2012 at 00:33
I’ve come to the belief that the thing we as educators really need to focus on is giving our students the tools they need to get their own education, in whatever format that may be. Meaning, we teach them the basics of communication and knowledge integration and application, and then we point them towards the resources that will allow them to build upon the basic stuff. This may mean that teachers (as such) will become obsolete, as there is very little information that can be conveyed in the strict lecture format. If that’s so, then I say good riddance, as studies have shown that the lecture format is the least efficient way to transfer knowledge. Subject matter beyond the elementary years will have to be determined on a case by case basis, but this will also entail a re-structuring of society. We will have to become futurists, in a sense, in order to help our students map out a path for themselves. Keeping ahead of, rather than abreast of, trending patterns, so that the career paths your daughters might find themselves on can at least be conceived of. Long story short: the current system does exactly what it’s supposed to do, which is to socialize young people for a consumer-oriented industrial age civilization. We are leaving that era behind, so we also should leave that particular education system behind.
May 23, 2012 at 09:16
Yes, you make wonderful points!!! I agree completely – we are educating for an age that no longer exists and it is time to move forward.
May 23, 2012 at 00:33
Very interesting post and of course, questions I also ponder daily. In answer to your question, no I am not sorry that I took calculus. Even though I don’t use it daily, I have an analytical mind and it was exercise for that mind. Many careers do use math daily and a deep understanding of math is needed. Engineers are badly needed and we need to foster these skills. At the same time, vocational options should be offered and introduced. I would be a terrible mechanic and probably not a great mechanical engineer (even though there are many in my family). I wish all students to get the opportunity to explore all things. Education should be career focused earlier. That does not mean a student should not read and write and study history, but it needs to relate to the real world and possible real-life skills. Discovering potential and fostering it at early ages could make a difference in what a student studies. My daughter wanted to take shop in 8th grade (10 years ago) and it was a fight to let her. The teacher was very discriminatory against her because she was female. He did not offer her the same instruction as the “boys.” She is today an aerospace engineer. I encouraged her and didn’t allow stereotypes to stand in her way. Many probably were discouraged.
The questions facing educational change are huge and there are many passionate opinions. I have mine and of course, I think I know what to do. So do others who differ from me. Parents are the first teachers and it is good to always continue advocating for your child. We do have to do the best we can to prepare for the world of the future. You are correct-if you have creativity and can adapt; there will be no problem. Students have to learn these skills and apply them to how they learn new things. It is much different than memorizing things and repeating it back. With the facility of the Internet, I can’t see the use for this skill. Knowing where to find information and validate it and then apply it to something or create something new is a different skill. You do still need to memorize certain things as a part of the process, but understanding that there is a process is key.
Thanks for taking the time to consider the important questions.
May 23, 2012 at 09:15
What an amazing story about your daughter! Yes, I have not even begun to address the realities of discrimination within the educational system (which still exists, on a variety of levels!)
I agree with you regarding the old memorize and regurgitate modes of education, with knowledge at our fingertips (on our phones!) Today we need to learn how to access it, decipher if the source is reliable, and apply the information – but we do not need random facts floating in our heads like we used to…….
May 23, 2012 at 17:26
All of the comments here are very interesting and address many of the issues. We need a paradigm shift beginning in the elementary grades for students, girls in particular, to understand the possible careers. At the risk of self-promotion, I also wrote a blog post a while back about “Why Is There a Disconnect for Girls and STEM Education in Middle School?” http://wp.me/p1MMAf-xA
We need to involve the community and the parents so students can see the comprehensive perspective of what the world has to offer. In addition, life skills such as financial literacy and cooking should be taught. There is so much to be learned from cooking-math and science–and it is so useful!
My blog is about educational topics and many of the things you discuss, I also discuss. I am happy to see that people have an interest and an opinion. These voices need to be heard by school administrators and districts to advocate for change.
May 23, 2012 at 21:52
Thank you so much for the link to your blog – I hope many readers take the time to go and read it. We do need to involve the community and encourage them towards a paradigm shift.
May 23, 2012 at 22:36
Thanks so much for your support. The number of comments form your post tell the story. Everyone has an interesting story. People need to speak with stakeholders to effect change.
May 23, 2012 at 00:35
I like the Steiner school ethos where everyone learns at their own pace. It is understandable that we need to teach our children the benefits of competition but often ever increasing degrees of competition merely stop students from trying. Why bother when there is always going to be someone above you in class? I think we need to be teaching our children the skills of problem solving and lateral thinking. It doesn’t matter what career they find themselves in, if you can find solutions for problems and you can “think outside the box” (often linked) you will be a valuable team member. I can’t get a picture that I saw recently out of my head. Almost an entire classroom of Chinese students hooked up to drips that helped them to “concentrate” better while they took their exams…apparently the drips are given out to anyone who wants them. What is happening to humanity that we have to anaesthetise our children to learn? Teaching is the coalface of tomorrows leaders and we need to ensure that our children are ready for the challenges that our uncertain world will undoubtably throw at them.
May 23, 2012 at 09:11
Yes, I agree with you – we need to teach students how to creatively problem solve or they will not make it in the world of tomorrow. Ironically, schools teach linear thinking, but, as you mention, it is thinking outside the box, moving away from the linear, that is the more valuable skill! The story you tell of the Chinese students is scary!
May 23, 2012 at 00:47
There are quite a few valuable things about our current public education system. For all its flaws, at the primary through high school level it is one of the few places where children interact with all the different communities in town. That alone helps teach adaptability. At the college level, the system teaches students about managing “the system.” As rapidly as our economy is changing, there isn’t going to be an ideal education program. And as much as I deplore the loss of the arts, teaching math and science is vital. Understand those, and you understand how to think logically, examine data critically and question underlying assumptions.
May 23, 2012 at 09:09
You bring up interesting points… and I do think students need these skills, but I think the key is that they need BOTH skills – and that, ultimately, cutting arts is as bad for the students as cutting math… it is a paradigm shift.
May 23, 2012 at 00:50
There is a serious problem with your thinking on this subject; it is all based on common sense. Something–in my opinion–educators and a nanny-state run education system are trying (with a great deal of success) to extricate from students. Higher education has never been a necessity, and yet people still point proudly at the man/woman who had no more than an 8th grade education, and yet succeeded beyond all expectations. I won’t waste a lot of your blog space on this, but, again, I could write a book. And it would make perfect sense.
Take a look at this poem I wrote today if you have a moment. I think you’ll like it.
May 23, 2012 at 09:07
Yes, you are so correct. How dare we want to teach common sense! I agree with you, higher education does not necessarily equate with life success – and, indeed, even high school graduation does not necessarily equate with success. Thank you so much for sharing the link to your poem!!!
May 23, 2012 at 00:57
nice work ….
May 23, 2012 at 09:06
May 23, 2012 at 01:04
This was a very good read. I once worked with 4 engineers and our newest was fresh out of college and refused to respect our civil engineer who had been with the company for 15 years, straight from Vietnam. When I asked him why he was so disrespectful he said “there is no excuse for not going to college”. He told me how he and his wife ate peanut butter sandwiches every day to afford their education. I told him the other was too busy fighting a war and when he returned he helped his wife battle cancer, so college wasn’t a priority.
May 23, 2012 at 09:06
Thank you! What a sad story you tell – the self-righteousness of a graduate who is not humble enough to learn from others. Ironically, in my neck of the woods people will often say that the 19 year old computer geek is far better at solving their issues than the college graduates… new trends in IT!
May 23, 2012 at 01:33
I agree wholeheartedly with the points you have made, and also that we have to find a solution to this together. When I was in grade 12, I wrote a satire about calculus. I then went on to become a school teacher. However, over the past few years, I have struggled with my job because my values are no longer in alignment with my job. Particularly, I have the same issues you do surrounding what we emphasize in school, and what we DON’T emphasize. Now, as a teacher I have the ability to ‘tweak’ my program so that I can foster creativity and adaptability-100% in agreement that these are two essentials. However, it is a constant battle working around the built in ‘time periods’ and the demands of the curriculum. In this ever changing world, the ‘3R’s’ and ’40 minute time periods’ will not suffice to prepare our children for the real world. The world doesn’t work in an organized manner; life is complex, and thus unpredictable. I am forever stressing survival skills to my students; no matter what subject I am teaching. As I am discovering on my own journey, everything is about balance. Yes, of course we need structure and the basic foundations, but education has to be about the whole person. I thank you for this post, because you have validated many of my very own thoughts and beliefs (including post-secondary choices). I could probably write a book (or at least a few chapters!) on this subject. Bottom Line: Education Matters, but it must be delivered in a way that meets the demands of today’s world.
Blessings Galore 🙂
May 23, 2012 at 09:05
Yes, what a great comment you have and I agree with you completely. Many of us educators are becoming very disillusioned because we do want to empower our students and we see that the system is more dis-empowering…. exactly what we do NOT want to happen.
May 23, 2012 at 01:33
Another thought: I just ran across this article on Psychology Today about comparing the methods used in traditional education with the ones used in teaching a jazz ensemble – a subject near and dear to my own heart. One of the themes discussed was the difference between “No child left behind” and “No child pushed forward”. Here ’tis: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/memory-medic/201204/what-all-teachers-should-learn-jazz-band-teachers-1
May 23, 2012 at 09:03
Wow, what a great comparison!!! 🙂
May 23, 2012 at 01:56
The thing is, is that yes, everyone can learn, but no, public schools are not the most appropriate setting for some individuals. And yes, we can teach people to take tests, we can even use application based questions, but no this does not translate into being able to solve the problems in real life. Activities teach you to think on your feet. Not tests. We have not to my knowledge seen increased attrition rates or increased college graduate rates. Which was part of the purpose as well. They are changing back over to allow more options for kids, once it was realized that everyone shouldn’t be on a college track. We can’t build policies from people who have never been in the trenches to begin with. There weren’t k-12 teachers on the panel to inform anyone of what the students need. How do people who don’t deal with the students know what’s best. All they can do is theorize, and we have now seen how far that’s gotten us. Over-tested, with no legitimate answer as to whether or not they’ve really learned in a meaningful way. And with no real means to determine whether or not the teacher was truly competent. Because you can’t test for it. Learning doesn’t work that way. And we have to teach more than a test to teach people how to interact, develop usable skills, and do well in society. Education always sends me on a diatribe. I apologize. Thanks for writing about it! 🙂
May 23, 2012 at 09:03
Such a great comment and good points you make – many of the people making the decisions are so far removed from education today that they are creating policies that do not work without the understanding of what may work. I think all the policy makers who pushed testing need to be placed in a classroom for two years and then report on their feelings!
May 23, 2012 at 02:04
I’ve been an educator for over 30 years, and I wanted to respond to your post. I also have two daughters, one who graduated from a great liberal arts college and one who is in transition, living at home and thinking about auto mechanics or business school. Both went to local public schools and did fine.
There is no one size fits all for all children regarding schooling. In past decades, when we had home ec and auto mechanics in the schools, kids were ‘tracked’….mostly poor and minority kids were tracked into those fields. (And what did those girls in Home Ec ever do with those skills anyway?). And girls in those days did not go into auto mechanics….likely they weren’t allowed. When I was a freshman in college, girls were only allowed in Nursing and Education, and not in liberal arts, sciences, or business! And that was Boston College, now an internationally high-ranked university.
So we have made advances…women are allowed in many fields, and there are regional vocational technical schools all over the country that a free and public for the kids who want them.
But…would you want your daughters to have to make their career choices in 8th grade, deciding to go to a voc tech instead of a college prep high school? I wouldn’t, that’s for sure. If I had made my career choice in 8th grade, I would be a nun by now!
In an attempt to raise the quality of public schools, the politicians have mandated state-required tests that the kids and teacher hate. It is now being discussed that teachers be evaluated on their students’ test scores. Well, kids in poor neighborhoods, living in poverty, with parents or a parent who may not have finished high school most often fail these tests. Then teachers have to scramble to teach to the test. This is not what teachers want. But it allows our legislators to ‘compare’ schools! I’ve known principals who leave their careers because they cannot in good conscience demand that their teachers ‘raise their test scores’.
And as for people like Sir Ken, I’ve never heard of him but I do read the research and keep up with the literature. I also occasionally find people like him on the Internet with no credentials but with good stage presence who grab the big headlines about schools and how bad they are. And they find many things to complain about but offer no solutions. And they get quoted all the time!
It is hard to nurture creativity when you are under pressure to raise your students’ test scores. And sometimes a particular teacher is not a good match for a certain student. They clash. That happens in human relationships.
As for myself, I don’t want to go back to the old days, but I don’t want to stay in this current test-score-competition. And college living and even a liberal arts degree prepare good citizens, highly qualified thinker and workers, as well as moving people into an intellectual life. To keep our brains active, we have to shut the TV off, stop watching reality TV and reading trash, reading books (real books, not Kindles), discussing ideas, and always moving ahead.
To make an ending, there is no limit to the number of different individuals who have written books, done research, interviewed kids and teachers, all in an attempt to create schools that work. With that said, no school will work for all kids in that school. And we’ve made it possible for many kids who would never have been allowed in college the opportunity to go….to engage in intellectual discourse and discover himself/herself. If a kid does not like school, then of course, don’t go to college! I have a friend with a Master’s Degree and she is in an online certificate program, and she insists she will never take another class again. That’s her right. But me, I have a Bachelor’s, a Master’s, and a doctorate and right now I am obtaining a new certificate in autism treatment…I am always learning.
So these are just some thoughts.
May 23, 2012 at 09:01
Thanks so much for your very thoughtful post – there is one thing I want to address because I think you misunderstood me. When I advocate for the vocational education (home economics/ auto mechanics, etc.) I do NOT advocate for it in the old traditional sense of tracking – I think ALL students should take these courses because we ALL need them in life. Therefore, 8th graders would not choose a vocation, but rather, perhaps we would cut some of the higher level classes, save them for university for only the students who really need them, and give everyone more practical skills along the way – it would be a major paradigm shift!
Yes, the teaching to the tests has gone completely out of control and I do not allow the teachers at our site to teach to the tests… I think it is a dangerous practice.
I agree, we cannot go back to the olden days – that education no longer works for today – we have to evolve and find an educational strategy that works for now.
PS – My partner and I are also perpetual learners, both also with higher degrees and always going back to school for more.. though at our age and stage of life we are usually going back for practical skills that we immediately put to use in our field.
Thanks so much!
May 23, 2012 at 02:34
totally agree. even the structure of the day with a lunch break and two ‘breaks’ aka recess are part of the old paradigm. There are advantages to education but the cost of it for personal benefit is out of reach for most people. I don’t know the solution, but I agree that there is a problem
May 23, 2012 at 08:56
Yes, most definitely! It is good we are starting to see the problems… it is the first step.
May 23, 2012 at 02:50
Fantastic post, the education system in the country is indeed something we need to look at.
And on that note, I hear a lot of talk about leaving a better world for our children, but maybe we should really focus on leaving better children for our world?
May 23, 2012 at 08:55
Ah, very VERY good point you make! The sad thing is, as our educational system is failing, I think we are failing too. The sense of entitlement I see in both students and their parents is very scary these days…. demanding more, learning less of what they need….. tough times in the world of education.
May 23, 2012 at 03:13
As a College teacher I have to agree with you for most parts. I am not sure where we went off track, but “no child left behind” certainly did not help. Are we teaching real world necessities? No, we are teaching to an exam. What about general education, is there enough? Too much? What? I dont have answers. I only have questions.
Fortunately I work in a state that supports academic freedom for Colleges so I can adjust my teaching as needed, but the public schools are caught in the bureaucracy of one standard for all. As a result I get high school graduates reading and writing at a 5th grade level, and cannot understand the most simple of algebraic equations. They have no life skills, and do not understand why they continue to get poor grades since they did not get poor grades on high school.
I am sorry my friend, I cannot give you answers, but since my time in acedemia is drawing to a close by age, maybe it is your turn to fight the good fight. Bless you. Gina
May 23, 2012 at 08:53
Yes, no child left behind has certainly been a disaster for the schools…. It sounds like you are in the same boat I am in – many questions, and no answers…. understanding faults but not yet armored with solutions.
I worry about the things you are seeing. I have had masters level interns at the school I head who cannot put a sentence together or manage with basic spelling (ie: their, there or they’re). These individuals have already received their bachelor’s degrees – it is frightening! There was a time I worked for a US Government agency writing publications for them. I was frequently told that my writing was too advanced and it could be no higher than an 8th grade level as otherwise most people would not understand it. Sad.
May 23, 2012 at 05:22
I’ve seen Robinson’s TED talks and absolutely love them, but am also left wondering what the solutions are. What he does, if nothing else, is give us food for thought.
May 23, 2012 at 08:50
Yes, he does… now we have to take it one step further and engage in meaningful dialogue until we find the answers…..
May 23, 2012 at 05:23
I think we are focusing on the wrong things in education today, for sure. I wish my son had been able to take an autoshop class or woodshop, like I had been able to when I was in school (in addition to home economics). He’s going to college, but not everyone is college material. Not because they aren’t smart, but because they have a talent or gift that is not academic, like working with their hands. There isn’t enough liberal arts education anymore either. Not enough music or art.
I’m not sure what the right things are, but I think your post today was really awesome.
May 23, 2012 at 08:49
Yes, I agree with you. Very good point about not enough music or art… particularly when the job market our children will inherit calls for the ability to be creative and flexible…. yet we cut the courses that teach those things… brilliant, huh?
May 23, 2012 at 05:29
When I was in high school, I didn’t have a choice to pursue either social studies (history, geography, philosophy, writing, sociology) or exact studies (biology, physics, mathematics, algebra, trigonometry), so we had a 6 day school week with 5-6 classes a day, which was strenuous for me since I was a straight A student in social studies, and barely passed on the latter ones. But, at the time you had to pass them all in order to graduate, otherwise you’d be stuck for another year in high school, a nightmare every kid has in life. Today, our high school system gives students a chance to chose where they want to focus more, while taking the second choice’s classes at a much shorter and lesser pressure level, and I think it’s great. If I’d had the chance back than I’d be in a much better shape today. To prove my case my mother paid a private tutor for 3 years to help me with biology, physics, algebra, trigonometry, and though I went from an F student to a C one, it wasn’t worth it and it took a lot outta me which in turn put me into a deep state of stress related trauma and deep depression. I never wish to see another kid go through what I went through, I was good with arts and languages, and to this day that has been my driving force, and thus I don’t need a college degree in order to be stuck in a cubicle all my life, though I might have a better paycheck. I would be more miserable that what I already am.
May 23, 2012 at 08:48
Wow, I cannot even imagine a 6 day week… sounds like you lost your childhood in favor of a piece of paper….. seems like the system is not working….
May 23, 2012 at 13:39
well that was the 90s, now things have changed
May 23, 2012 at 06:46
Many teachers also wonder the same thing! I don’t know what it’s like in the US but in Australia the curriculum is so overloaded that the depth of learning is forgotten. You have just enough time to teach a topic then its time to move on. I am glad to be out of it.
May 23, 2012 at 08:47
Yes, this is one of the things we question here.
May 23, 2012 at 07:06
I amen your blog. I wrote about an experience I had with my daughter’s cooking class. I am personally frustrated with the lack of education on health, which I believe should be foundational.
May 23, 2012 at 08:48
Yes….. we need the foundation
May 23, 2012 at 07:18
Numbers 3 and 4 especially resonated with me. I think it’s ridiculous that we push everybody to go to college, especially when many aren’t interested in it, don’t work well within the structure of school, or just have no idea what they would want to get out of it besides a piece of paper. Some of the best-off people I know never got a college degree, but they did learn a lot from the school of reality. Education should not be one-size-fits-all.
May 23, 2012 at 08:47
So very true…
May 23, 2012 at 08:50
I agree with most except calculus. Most people use it every day without noticing that they do, because it is so engrained in their brain. For instance I use it when I shop and spend money – price/100g of something or the 15% discount. Calculus makes that I understand my mortgage (payments) and tax calculations (not the taxes themselves that is law 😉 ). I also use it on more life skills like sewing, cooking and even sports. You’d use it in car mechanics as well, sizing conversions, tightening, pressures etc etc. all have a component of calculus and often physics.
Sure I can use computers on most things, but understanding the calculus makes that I can see if the answer is anywhere near correct.
May 23, 2012 at 08:54
I agree with you, we do use math everyday – but what you are describing is actually taught in Algebra, a lower level class. 🙂
May 23, 2012 at 09:56
Such a long time since I finished school, nearly 50 years ago – to be honest I would like to be at school today – even if I think the learning is much more versatile today and wider. Don’t think the school in my days prepared me for life after school, but it learned me respect and I got a structure to my life. The sad thing today is that went they finish school there is no jobs out there for them – and not all of them can become doctors and lawyers. In Sweden the school education has very high standards – but I don’t understand the way they do their math today, glad I don’t have any grandchildren that needs my support with that.
May 23, 2012 at 11:13
Yes, I agree – it worries me so much that so many students graduate and have no jobs to go to (and lots of debt from their degrees)… times have really changed. I also wish that students still came out of education with some structure and respect… these things seem to be lacking in some schools today (not all, just some)…..
May 23, 2012 at 17:55
Personal I think it’s terrible waste of the youth – all that time in school and their debts as you said. They end up at a till in a supermarket – if they are lucky. Over here it’s really bad – even if it has become a bit better. Same if you are over 40 – and lost your job … very little chance you will get a new. Terrible and scary. Glad that I have the working life behind me …
May 23, 2012 at 21:53
May 23, 2012 at 11:55
I work in education and my daughter is in her first year of primary school. No, I do not think that the education system has got is right. Ironically, got to rush off to a class right now, so you’ve been spared a long rant on the subject…. My daughter has asked if she can be home-schooled but not sure I could do it!
May 23, 2012 at 12:08
Yes, I have often said that I would be in big trouble if I attempted to home school my kids – better I educate the children of others! I hope we figure it out and make changes before we sacrifice a generation in the process!
May 23, 2012 at 14:01
Amen to all of what you’ve written here, especially number 4. We have already started telling our kids that before they enter a four year college, they WILL either do a tour of military service or obtain a professional certification from the community collge or a trade school. Shoot me an email when you have time . . . I’d love to chat with you more, but it’s my oldest’s birthday, so my online time is VERY limited today! Peace be with you! — Kelly
May 23, 2012 at 16:05
Thank you – yes, I am having similar conversations with my girls. I think they need to grow up a bit and figure out what they want to do prior to acquiring tons of debt on a degree – it seems ridiculous that they enter university with no concept or focus and pay all that money while trying to figure it out. I think my oldest will end up in beauty school learning to be a hairdresser and I am sure she will be a very good one. 🙂
New Hampshire Garden Solutions
May 23, 2012 at 17:41
All I’ve ever wanted for my children was that they choose a life that made them happy. Since they know what makes them happy far better than I do, I stayed out of their decisions of whether or not to go to college. Neither did and my daughter (at 27) already makes more than I do and my son seems to be on the path to becoming a lifer in the Airforce. They are both very happy and so am I.
May 23, 2012 at 21:52
Yea! This is what I plan to do with my girls! 🙂
May 23, 2012 at 17:54
This was a truly, truly excellent post and, obviously it has sparked a lot of input! I think there are two problems with our current education system. The first is, as you say, that creativity is not a big part of it (and, for more on that, I highly recommend reading A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink). The second is expecting students to excel in everything, rather than gaining a basic understanding of most subjects but really excelling at those subjects that truly interest them. The push for straights A’s makes the student less likely to fully develop in those areas that will benefit them most in the future if for no other reason than that they are passionate about it.
May 23, 2012 at 21:53
Thanks for your comment and for the recommended reading! You bring up a good point…. we are focusing on achievement for achievement sake, but is that really the best thing?
May 23, 2012 at 21:00
What I’m hearing in all the replies is basically this:
1) The government demands on our public educations system produces a low quality education level in our children. (Maybe because it’s a system of indoctrination? my question) 2) Teachers and students are not benefiting and are unsatisfied with the status quo. 3) People offer insights but no solutions. 4) With the job market constantly changing, how do we prepare our children for their futures?
1) Deregulate the schools. Get the gov influence out of the classroom. “Fortunately I work in a state that supports academic freedom for Colleges so I can adjust my teaching as needed…” Change state laws. 2) Let the teachers teach their strengths with fun and creativity. 3) Allow students to progress at their own levels. “Education should not be one-size-fits-all.” 4) “Meaning, we teach them the basics of communication and knowledge integration and application, and then we point them towards the resources that will allow them to build upon the basic stuff…” (a return to the 3R’s, home economics, shop, music, art…) 5) “I think we need to be teaching our children the skills of problem solving and lateral thinking.” 6) “I have been thinking about passion vs practicality…” 7) “Knowing where to find information and validate it and then apply it to something or create something new is a different skill. You do still need to memorize certain things as a part of the process, but understanding that there is a process is key.”
Come on, educators. You know the problems, and you have solutions. At this point, would a state educational transformation be simple and easy? Hardly. Almost impossible, I’d say. But, you have to start somewhere.
I home-educated my five children for 28 years. (By the way, home education does work in many families.) I have four college-educated children – two Summa Cum Laude and one Magna Cum Laude, one fantastic business salesman with some college, and one daughter who has no clue in which direction she should go and who loathes the idea of college but is a good orthodontic appliance lab technician. I am currently finishing my bachelors after a 28-year, unpaid, college sabbatical (ha) and will graduate in December. But, I had to start somewhere.
To the following quote, I want to reply:
“And as for people like Sir Ken, I’ve never heard of him but I do read the research and keep up with the literature. I also occasionally find people like him on the Internet with no credentials but with good stage presence who grab the big headlines about schools and how bad they are. And they find many things to complain about but offer no solutions. And they get quoted all the time!”
There are many great thinkers, movers, and shakers in the world with no official or formal credentials. Sometimes, we need people like him to stir the pots, to get us (collectively) out of the (in this case, educatonal) funk. We might discount the messenger for his lack of proud credentials, but we must value his message.
My two cents…
May 23, 2012 at 21:54
Thank you for doing a fabulous job summarizing so much of the commentary to this post! You are correct, we do need to thank the people who are causing us to question education. We may be frustrated that they do not know how to fix the issues, but we should applaud their courage in addressing the issues, against mainstream opinions.
May 23, 2012 at 22:55
The truth is everyone makes good points. It is easy to criticize and not so easy to make useful and workable suggestions and solutions. I too have listened to Sir Ken Robinson and find him compelling but without answers. I have always wondered what he does to effect what he talks about, and I am glad to hear I am not the only one!
I think I have good ideas and at the same time, I realize what it takes to make some of them reality–a little at a time. I do think we need to encourage creativity and critical thinking and there are many implementations possible to do this. We also need accountability and the first step is to use formative assessments by teachers constantly as a monitor of progress. The high stakes tests do not really measure much demonstration of knowledge, only for some things and some types of learners. Testing is a good place to start to change the way it’s done.
May 23, 2012 at 22:40
Oh it is ridiculous, it is harmful,I hate it.
May 23, 2012 at 23:28
May 24, 2012 at 00:11
400 days until 40….how do I unsubscribe to these comments?
May 24, 2012 at 08:41
I actually did not know and had to seek advice via Google for the answer! It is apparently a bit of a complicated process. The following blogger did a great job explaining how to unfollow a comment thread:
May 24, 2012 at 00:53
You can only make these decisions as you go. I do not know their is the right answer that fits all. This is the real problem – one size does not fit all. I agree it is confusing and overwhelming but bottom line we do not have a crystal ball and everything does work out.
May 24, 2012 at 08:33
Yes, so very true….I am expecting a lot of changes in the next 10-20 years, hopefully they will be the right ones and we will not make too many mistakes along the way.
May 24, 2012 at 18:17
With all that love…..you and they will be fine!
May 25, 2012 at 17:38
Reading the comments above, it seems that people are very much aware of the problems Sir Ken highlights and I see some wonderful ideas on how to improve the present education system wherever one lives. An interesting post and some interesting replies to follow it!
As not everyone is familiar with his work you may find it interesting to know that Sir Ken was part of the national advisory comittee for creative and cultural education in the UK and has made other important contributions to UK education.
May 26, 2012 at 00:02
Yes, I did know this – but thank you for sharing it, because I am guessing that many readers here did not realize his connection. He really does have a lot of important things to say. I wonder if we will ever hear him switch from identifying the problems to offering solutions as well…..
May 29, 2012 at 10:02
Completely agree with the questions you’ve raised and this I think applies everywhere, there are points you’ve raised that I think are relevant to schools here and likely vice-versa.
Your mention of teaching creativity and adaptability is perfect because that is the truth – the world is in more flux and more dynamic today than it’s ever been and those are abilities (along with an open mind and more versatile world-view) that will really see you through. Though in my opinion those should be taught to everyone regardless to make them better people overall.
In part I think we are suffering from a side-effect of the rampant capitalist model that is pervading the global systems – I like capitalism and democracy but all things must be restrained. Mass-production and ludicrous economies of scale have slowly but surely killed something I think is essential for human culture and society and that is craftsmen.
Carpenters, metal-workers, artisans, seamstress, electronics repair and any number of vocations and skills are being by-passed for bigger and better jobs or are not seen as an option and then so many end up doing a mediocre version of these just handling machines in a factory – in the end having learnt nothing to add value to your life and skills beyond operating the machine. No disrespect to them, but they are valued members of society but so would all those others be…
It bothered me (for example) when I realised that I can’t get my music system or TV repaired without going to the company and paying whatever they ask and getting squeezed (and you are, never doubt that) instead of doing what I did all my life – as a kid and through school and college I’d go to guys who had repair shops and they would repair all kinds of things for people from TVs to fridges, etc, etc… Now you either pay a bomb-amount (because almost everything apparently is so expensive to repair you’re told it makes sense to just buy a new one) or straight out trash everything from your phone to your washing machine everytime it hiccups and get a new one. It’s a wasteful and heavy waste producing mentality and one that is making things far worse than the average person even bothers to think about.
Saddens me immensely.
May 29, 2012 at 10:33
Yes, sadly, I have to agree with you. I do think the capitalism has really destroyed our society… I am not sure what the answers will be in the future… right now I just know that everything is very wrong. I also agree with you, we are producing waste at scary amounts. In fact, I think I am going to do a blog special on that soon!!! 🙂 It seems we are really treating the world like a garbage can and this is what the next generation will inherit…. sad. 😦
May 29, 2012 at 13:28
And this is all part of why the youth globally is getting so active and aggressive in pushing for change.
June 4, 2012 at 02:30
Nice thoughtful post! I agree that the majority of future jobs haven’t even been invented yet, and therefore it is a waste of time to teach vocational skills which will soon be outdated. Creativity and adaptability, as you say, are essential. As well as thinking and communication and problem-solving skills, I would add. But students often are unable to make that leap of faith and see that far beyond the horizon, and many scoff at the kind of general education skills which are absolutely fundamental to future success. I applaud the way you as a parent (I’m just a silly humanities/liberal arts professor) are thinking closely about your children’s education.
And 40 is not a bad place to be ☺
June 4, 2012 at 07:32
Thanks! Though you should knot it does help to have professors thinking about these things too – I am thinking of going back to get my doctorate because I realize it may make more sense to start at the training level than the school level……… 🙂
June 8, 2012 at 12:31
Practical, functional education for jobs like hairdresser and vehicle mechanic is fine, and many academically-incilined people could benefit from a bit of up-to-date practical education – not woodwork but car maintenance, safe cycling or buying and selling houses, say – for use in their personal lives.
However, car mechanics and hairdressers are also citizens. They may read. They may have hobbies like local history, exotic cooking or playing the guitar. They may also discover new interests and decide to do something quite different which requires different skills. An education system that didn’t encourage them to think, to question, to know something about the world and to engage in free co-operation would be letting them down and letting the whole of society down.
June 8, 2012 at 13:32
Very good points – and I am not saying at all that we should go back to vocational training and tracking – what I am saying is that for a SMART student – one even headed to Harvard, etc. that car maintenance may ultimately serve them better in life than calculus. 🙂