Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Perspective on Education

One thing that bothers me: we tend to assume that class-room-style schooling is the only kind of education. I think that's a major mistake. It's frankly quickly becoming archiac; an authoritarian model of the late 19th century, modeled after the Prussian system. I would bet that for many people a one on one atmosphere is much more conductive to learning. There's also self-education and education from good parenting. Further, I think that the future of education (and media in general) is on the internet. I would be thrilled to take college courses through one on one webcam dialogue with a teacher, and using file sends.

I also would be thrilled to have more specialized say in what subjects I take, rather than pre-picked packages. When a student is actually interested in a topic, they are more likely to succeed. That's one of the reasons why public education has failed: it takes almost no consideration for what the student's interests are as an individual, and rigorously goes over the same things in highschool that already was supposed to be learned in middle school or elementary school. Why should we be surprised that the average highschooler is bored out of their mind? It feels like a jail-cell. It frankly borders on child abuse.

Another probem is the "one size fits all" approach. Each individual is different; that's why they are an individual. It is not possible for each individual to benefit from the exact same education model and subject selection. Standardization in many ways is anathema to true education. It works sort of like communism: everything is flattened and those who do well are pushed downwards, while those who aren't so talented are artificially propped up and presented with things that are beyond their means. It just doesn't work. We are not ants. We have individuality. The system supresses that. The extremely bright kids are overlooked and frankly left behind. On the other hand, the kids that need special help do not recieve it either.

The really bright and eccentric kids are almost uniformly drop-outs, and tend to get bad grades in highschool (Albert Einstein or Bill Gates anyone?). That speaks volumes for how unworkable the education system is. I'm no genuis, but I've learned more in my post-highschool years reading essays on the internet then I ever learned in highschool. In highschool, are kids taught economics? No. Are they taught sociology? Not really, although they do have social studies class, but alot of it is frankly biased, nationalist and romantic. Are they taught survival skills? Not at all! Are they vocationally trained? Perhaps a little bit, but it's mostly just a "what would you like to do when you grow up?" day once per year.

Another point that is not often considered is that our Prussian-style education system creates a disincentive towards parental responsibility. That is, the teachers or schoolmasters take over the role of parents, while the actual parents are given an incentive to transfer responsibility away from themselves and towards the bereaucrats. The public schools thus become nothing more than baby-sitters that have no real connection with the children. At best, the teacher is like a lazy baby-sitter. At worst, an abusive one. A teacher may be qualified to teach, but it is not likely that they are qualified to baby-sit a classroom full of children.

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