Rethinking Education…Again

antique cars for history class

Students learned about the early 20th century by exploring antique cars at Massabesic High School in Waterboro, Maine this spring.

Here’s what I was talking about with the Teen this morning.

What if we gathered together a bunch of high school students interested in studying literature/writing/journalism and planned an entire education program from there? We would start with that passion and incorporate all the disciplines. For instance…

Literature: We could read and write various genres and analyze their conventions.

History: We could write historical fiction–and do the historical research necessary.

Math: We could talk about the biz of publishing, learn accounting, statistics, and maybe create some marketing or distribution algorithms. I’m unclear about algorithms but this sorta explains my idea

Economics: Maybe we would create a “virtual” magazine and learn the ins and outs of publishing, sorta like those classes where students trade stocks, with all the learning implied in that kind of endeavor.

Social sciences: We could study sociology and psychology and philosophy to inform ourselves about character development and conflicts.

Science: We could do some nature writing/science reading and writing and learn about those subjects and/or incorporate what we learn into fiction. We could visit a lab and interview scientists (or better yet, go down to the science-learner wing or school and interview students in their lab).

Art: We could write about art and artists. We could look at paintings and sculptures for inspiration for new stories. We could practice art as a way of accessing different parts of our brain, stimulating creativity.

Health & Fitness: We could do some yoga and walking/running or any other form of exercise because authors need to get up and move to stay healthy and their minds working properly.

Industrial Arts: We could build bookshelves or maybe personalized writing desks.

Music: We could write music lyrics and learn some music theory while we are at it. Of course we could also participate in chorus or band.

Now….if I were interested in say, science, how could I create a similar program for the science-learners?

Math & Science charter schools are already creating this kind of learning environment…so why shouldn’t we create schools geared toward artists? Or philosophers? Or writers? Or athletes? (Actually, there is a school for skiers up at Sugarloaf called Carrabassett Valley Academy.)

What if we truly started with students’ interests and built programs around them? Video gaming? GREAT! Website design? Fabulous! Auto mechanics? No problem! Agriculture? Be still my heart.

For those kids who want to be college professors, academics, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc, then a traditional liberal arts education might just be what they need. Fine! Create a classical academy school for them.

The point is, different learners have different interests, so why shouldn’t we have different schools or classroom clusters for them? This is not a new idea. Some high schools have created schools within a school similar to colleges within universities or majors within colleges.

What is the point of education, after all, but learning what you need to actually DO something? If you were a student again, wouldn’t this sound like fun?

Homeschool advocates already understand all this. Homeschooling is the ultimate individualized learning program.

Charter schools geared toward particular types of learners and interests are springing into life all over the place.

How does standardized testing and a common core curriculum match up with how and why students really learn? Isn’t this is a question legislatures and administrators might want to ask themselves as they move forward?

And what about employers? With the cost of college spiraling ever higher and student loan rates becoming prohibitive, maybe the economy should consider criteria for employment other than the ubiquitous college degree. Does an administrative assistant NEED a bachelors degree in business administration or could an office management training program do the trick? Does an entry-level library assistant really need a bachelor’s degree or even an associates degree? Vocational training, geared toward specific professions, makes much more sense to me. Couldn’t we have aptitude tests and on-the-job training? Apprenticeships?

I suspect it is time–past time–to radically rethink education and human resources. What do you think?

For further contemplation:

4 responses to “Rethinking Education…Again

  1. I have always have been an advocate for apprenticeships. Think of ‘olden days’ when young men learned their trade this way. Blacksmith’s would take on a young man and teach him the trade and eventually if he had no sons this apprentice would take over the business. Employers need a better way to vet their potential employees as well. In this day and age you can’t assume just because someone has a high school diploma they have the skills you are looking for. It’s discouraging sometimes working in the school systems.

    • What is amazing to me is that so many people agree with this, and yet…nothing changes when it comes to hiring and training,etc. It’s almost as if no one is willing to take that first step. The state of Maine does have an apprenticeship program….I looked into it briefly. If I’m correct, the apprentice has to find a company willing to enter into that sort of arrangement. I don’t know if the state kicks in money to the company or what. Maybe tax breaks? Instead of the apprenticeship scenario, now it seems companies are “hiring on spec” with no benefits and no commitments regarding continuation of employment. Is that an apprenticeship? Seems to me the company should have to give something, as well.

    • Everything connects to everything else in a society. Education and economy and technology and entertainment and transportation and energy sources and…..everything. Changing one causes ripple affects. I really believe our systems have become too big to handle. Nobody can plan for all the ripple affects, so we become merely reactive. I see education becoming more and more bureaucratic, for example. This is how the state works: They make the districts bigger for “efficiency” which makes things too difficult to manage which then requires more heavy-handed “management” from the top down and more “standardization” and focus on test results. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see test results go up; however, if those are your only measures of SUCCESS (including evaluation for teachers), I believe we are missing the boat entirely. I highlight “success” because I think the state and education planners are thinking that all those individual talents and interests and innovations and successes (including those of the teachers) that lay outside the standards are fine and dandy but not to be included in any evaluative process. I think we need 1)smaller school districts 2)more schools, not fewer 3)different types of schools for different types of learners and teachers 4)funding that follows the student, i.e. school choice. If, as advocates for Standards Based Education claim, this paradigm is good for every type of student, then the public schools will do just fine. If, on the other hand, parents find that the SBE isn’t working for their child, then they will have a choice to put their children elsewhere, including homeschooling. This seems like the only fair and reasonable way forward. Let the public schools compete with their SBE and Common Core against charter and private and home schools. May the best education paradigm win.

  2. My wife home schooled our two kids up to high school. She spent about 2 1/2 hours a day with a Calvert correspondence course. We were lucky because we had a home print shop. When they weren’t in school, they could work with me. My son learned how to run the press at 5 years old. He would watch the counter and it wasn’t long before he could calculate the percent of work that was completed during a 5000 run. My daughter learned how to typeset and was designing newsletters at a very young age. They were tested through the state every year and always tested several years above their grade level.
    I see farm kids running tractors and being very responsible for their farm animals at young ages, so I know it’s not just us.
    I don’t know what the answer is, but clearly a choice of different educational programs would be ideal.

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