education caught in a time loop?

June 21, 2008 at 4:52 pm | Posted in Professional Development | 5 Comments
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Watched an interesting talk from Ken Robinson where he challenges modern thinking on education.  Given my background in coaching, I have a fair amount of experience with the educational system.  And a little known fact of no value is that all I have left is my Student Teaching class to get my Masters in Arts and Teaching (but pesky bills get in the way of taking off 1/2 a year).

That said, I have to say that in general, I agree with Ken’s challenging of our current system.  What I’m not clear on is the alternative.  What is the best way to educate in the modern era?  Those folks we educate are going to run our businesses and our companies in the not-too-distant future, so it’s an important question to ask.

What about at work?  Do we appreciate those who think differently?  *should* we appreciate them?  I suspect for every story of the one that succeeds are thousands of the ones that really were hair-brained schemes.  But man oh man, when that one does hit, it can revolutionize things.  How to get there… that’s the challenge.  Sometimes we become victims of our own success in the sense we become beholden to what got us there.  It’s a tough challenge, and one I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

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  1. My son goes to a private school for a reason. While I do have faith in the public education system, we stumbled across his current school by accident as it was a convenience for us at the time. Granted he was in Kindergarten last year, but what we saw not only in his classroom, but in the grades above him amazed us.

    They teach what is called inquiry based learning. Basically its not the traditional “teacher stands there and teaches from the books”, but rather its based on children getting together and solving problems and helping each other learn. Its a student-centered, active learning approach focusing on questioning, critical thinking, and problem-solving. It’s associated with the idea “involve me and I understand.”

    Basically, its about collaborating and in the business world now and in the future, that is how things get done. Its a bit controversial, but in my opinion it works. Again, not to harp on public education, but they educate to the test scores and the no child left behind thing. Still not a bad concept, but in this crazy world we live in, I am willing to take some risks.

    Billy…cant say enough good things about this blog of yours. It challenges me to think and I hope your other readers think the same.

    Keep this up brother…its awesome.

  2. Billy Bosworth
    billyboz68@yahoo.com | 76.184.246.51

    In Kentucky where I was working on my MAT, KERA (Kentucky Education Reform Act) was the solution de jour. Everyone is struggling to find answers, but few agree on what the final outcome should be. As such, there is even less agreement on how to get there.

    If I had a magic wand and could change one thing about the public school system, and only one thing, it would be teacher-to-student ratios. Today in high school, it averages about 1:30 in metro areas. 50-minute classes. 5 minutes getting settled on the front end and 5 minutes squirming to leave on the back end. That’s 40 minutes. Then there’s interruptions on the loud speaker and notes at the door. That’s another 5 minutes. Now you’re down to 35 minutes. 30 students. Not hard to do the math.

    Some schools try to help this with block scheduling. Improvement, but not enough in my mind to really move the needle. Then there’s the way you bounce from subject to subject in a completely unrelated fashion. Where else in life do you do that with *completely* unrelated activities? So other schools have tried to weave a common thread through the subjects. But who teaches them? Folks to whom we pay pretty low wages, and many of whom feel protected by unions. (disclosure: my mother worked 34 years in a steel mill, on the cutting lines, and was a proud union member, so I know a little about both sides of this one).

    And we’ve just scratched the surface! More to the point of the blog, I just wonder how/if it carries over into our jobs. I’ve really been pondering that one a lot lately. I believe it does.

    Thanks for your compliment on the blog. Enjoy reading your comments.

  3. I attended a school with 45-minute periods and another school with roughly seventy minute blocks (Senior year this fall). I much prefer the block system, which means four classes a day and involves an eight-day schedule cycle with a maximum of eight classes being allowed per student (not counting University or online classes).

    The period system means you get about seven classes a day, which is exhausting and also means that you have about five hours of homework a night if you’re a high-level student. With the blocking system you have more time immersed in the subject, which is better (in my opinion) than a quick daily dunk followed by two-hours worth of homework (very common in Honors Science and English classes!).

    That’s one of the problems, that teachers give so much homework, especially the meaningless kind. Yes, some things (metafictive writing assignments, writing up a Chem Lab, etc.) are reasonable to assign as out-of-class homework, but daily worksheets and forty-five minute math sets involving compound numbers are not really necessary–just reviewing the notes from the previous class is usually enough to get on with. Worksheets are especially good at twisting up your encephalon with frustration because the questions are often shallow, banal, and barely scratch the surface of the issue (i.e. questions about American Imperialism are often directed at what the US did, instead of questioning the base issue of whether or not Imperialism is beneficial to the World–particularly when it concerns regions such as Polynesia, Algeria, etc.).

    US students have something like 2 1/2 hours (I think) more hours of homework now than they did twenty years ago, and (as I can attest) a lot of it is unnecessary for anything other than satisfying the teacher that his students weren’t going out and spraypainting the local garages like some of them seem to think we will given the lack of anything else to do.

    I wish schools were bilingual by default instead of by choice. I live in Maine, where knowing French is especially useful, even more so if one is planning a career in International Relations or something. Technically speaking I am at a Dual language School–I’m hard of hearing and attend a Deaf school–but I’m referring to a language that isn’t spoken by default(as the national language) at the school. Americans are lucky because the majority of people will learn English, which bypasses their immediate need to learn a language. But it also makes us lazy, which isn’t so good. Globalization (love it or hate it) is going to mean that more people are going to need to learn Spanish, Hindu, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, etc. Which makes the world heaven for linguiphiles like me, hell for those who don’t want to or are simply uninterested.

    Oh, and while the board of education is at it, they can cut out all that standardized test garbage we have to be put through. We’re not evil little monsters who need to be beaten into submission, we’re high-energy teenagers who just want to learn something while we can smell the fresh air. Why are teacher’s wasting their time complaining about how we supposedly don’t want to learn? We do, we just hate learning the way adults seem to want us to learn (because it’s “easy” for them, quotation marks are courtesy of special ed teachers, for whom NCLB has made teaching living hell). We love reading. Just ask my mum, a High School Librarian who reports that more students are taking out more books every year. If Politicians and Policy Wonks did their homework like we so dutifully do, maybe the education system wouldn’t have been so badly screwed up.

    We’re a snarky group of students, yes, but so is every generation. 🙂

  4. Billy,

    While I cannot comment on how the modern day school system carries over to the work world, I do know one thing, that hard work and discipline is taught in the home. I was never the smartest kid in the class, but I worked my butt off to study and work hard. I may not have a lot of degrees or be book smart, I do know that its about working with people and engaging everyone to want to learn more.

    My son can be a “C” student all his life and I would be ok with that so long as he learned to work together as a team to solve issues and work hard at making a difference in peoples professional and social lives.

    While my comments are slightly off topic, I do think that education is more about books and test scores. Its about being mature enough to accept responsibility for your actions and to work harder, smarter and in a more collaborative way. Heck, some of the smartest people I have know are horrible at people skills and while they may have moved up the ladder or achieved all those wonderful degrees, they are not respected by their peers or subordinates.

  5. Great video, Billy. I’d forgotten about that one…so many good TED videos, so little time. 🙂

    My sister and niece are both teachers (one in public school and one in a charter school…another story completely). I think they would agree with much of what Robinson raises here. It’s a little bit of synchronicity here, because we were having a conversation just this past weekend on a related issue.

    Another thing that seems to be a problem is the way we have begun to condition kids to believe in getting rewarded just for showing up. Every kid who participates gets a trophy. There are no winners and losers. You get the picture.

    Unfortunately, when you get to “the real world” it doesn’t work like this. You don’t get credit just for showing up. Similarly, you don’t get credit just for being creative…you have to be able to execute. You have to be able to finish. That’s a part of the process that we are sort of breeding out of kids today.

    I know a lot of “creative” people who can come up with ideas all day long (some of them good too) but can’t ever deliver. Yet they still want credit.

    I imagine that life will be very frustrating for these types of kids unfortunately.


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