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Thursday, January 17. 2013
Will Longer School Year Help or Hurt U.S. Students? Plus some thoughts about reinventing government education
The article is here. Of course a shorter summer "vacation" would help kids with continuity.
However, I think it's time that the entire structure of public K-12 education ought to be reinvented.
We started out with home-schooling, with tutors for the wealthy, then neighborhood one-room schoolhouses supported and controlled by the parents of the kids, then we went to the tax-supported, age-cohorted Prussian (yes, our public schools were based on the then-modern Prussian schools) factory model for the poor which we still use today in the US, while the prosperous (and the Catholics) used private schools. One size does not fit any, much less all.
Nobody cares what I think, but I do have plenty of ideas.
One of the first things I would do would be to eliminate the age-cohort system and, with that, those talented and gifted programs. Proceed at your own pace after demonstrating mastery of modules of study. The highly-motivated and bright move faster, the rest more slowly - or never. So what? Most kids cannot handle integral calculus but some kids are eager to tackle it.
Another would be to eliminate the huge summer vacation. It's obsolete. Give them August off, if need be. Why should kids have life easier than the grown-ups who take so little time away from their work and pay the bills for the supposed professional education?
Third, I would reintroduce technical training. The fancy private schools my kids attended have more technical training than the public schools have. Schools can take their pick: wood shop, metal shop, music shop, forestry shop, computer shop, kitchen shop, farm shop, garden shop, car and engine shop, construction and architecture shop, art and graphics shop, electrical shop, stone shop, ceramics shop, gun shop, etc. Few parents can teach all of these things, and the opportunities to integrate book learning - math, history, etc into real life tasks can be inspiring. If we had stone shop today, we might find another Michelangelo. Our kids' Kitchen Shop ultimately produced a Cordon Bleu four-star chef whose first task in Kitchen Shop was to understand sanitary dish-washing and the workings of a commercial dishwashing machine. Because private schools are non-union, the Kitchen Shop kids work in the school kitchen and take orders from the chef.
Fourth, I would get rid of the costly educational edifice complex. The building doesn't contribute anything. Any old empty mill building or vacant factory would be fine.
Fifth, I would bring back Civics. Every American needs to be taught how to be a citizen of a free republic. It's not easy to be one; it's all about man and God and law. Not all parents explain this plainly, or even by example.
Sixth: Sports. Every kid ought to do some team or individual sports as part of school or outside of school. Not just the athletically-gifted. America is a sports country. Builds character even if you are a spaz. Mens sana in corpore sano.
Seventh: Get rid of the unions. Teaching is a calling, not a factory job and definitely should not be a government job.
Eighth: Abolish the Federal dept. of Education. It's not their yob, and they are mostly idiots who could not change the oil in their car or hammer a nail straight into a 2X4, much less diagram a sentence.
I could go on and on, but that's a start.
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Despite being very critical of the public schools, I don't agree w/ many of the proposals
1. Age cohort- school isn't just about book learning. Kids need to be around peers in age and size. Too big a gap and it stunts the learning as well. This is empirically observed, so it shouldn't be ignored based on idealology.
The one room schoolhouse w/ several ages/stages together may have worked better for a variety of reasons. More talented kids could glean advanced studies from the older kids w/o too much disruption.
2. Agree but why should kids' schedule dictate parents'? You've just driven everyone crazy b/c their vacations are now confined to one month instead of three. In crowded school systems they're running year round, w/ groups of kids taking 6-week breaks in staggered fashion. This may be optimal.
3. Definitely. This will also demand talent from the teachers, weeding out bad ones, and developing the committed ones.
4. Buildings are important. They provide continuity and help define purpose. Telling someone to do something is greatly facilitated if you can tell them where.
Many buildings do get other uses: sports in the evening, and in our area, rented by churches on Sundays. This should be the norm.
A year round schedule will aid this further.
5. Absolutely. Got to be careful though what is getting taught in these classes.
6. That's what PE should be for. My PE classes were poorly run, very little E. Anyway, many kids do play sports, and I don't see schools having a role beyond PE (and facilitating the sports with, say it with me, the edifice!) This point is the most incongruous w/ the others.
7. Sure. Although I don't like the calling language.
8. Of course.
#1 - HUH??? Where, outside of the obviously-failing school k-12 school model is this empirically observed, or shown to be necessary? Even charter schools that think outside the box show students without age segregation both take initiative to lead, and strive to excel to the highest common denominator. Given that "school age" is the only time in life that we age segregate people, it makes little sense, and only contributes to a "teach to the middle" approach. Putting like-abled children together shows much better results than like-aged.
"#1 - HUH??? Where, outside of the obviously-failing school k-12 school model is this empirically observed, or shown to be necessary?"
Uh, everywhere there are kids. You do know what empirically means don't you? You have to look. Sports or other competitions. Pediatric evaluations. They talk about childhood development for a reason. Physical and emotional development is important to learning just like cognitive development.
But wait...they don't separate all kids in 9-12...they do just what you ask for. Yet these schools still fail, so obviously this isn't the core issue.
"Given that "school age" is the only time in life that we age segregate people, it makes little sense, and only contributes to a "teach to the middle" approach."
You think there isn't age separation on corporate boards of directors, or top military command? You don't find a lot of 21 year olds in either. On the flip side, you don't find too many 55 year olds clubbing at 3am Sun morning in Manhattan.
I'm no champion of public schools, but ill-founded criticisms, and accompanying "fixes", do no one any good.
The comments about summer demonstrate a weak understanding of children and learning. It is not all about sitting in a classroom. There is more to life than sitting in a classroom 9 hours a day 50 weeks a year. Children need play, travel, swimming lessons, summer camp, play, exploration, time with family, play, etc. That whole continuity thing is foolishness. Our educational system has done fine for centuries with long summer breaks.
The main problem right now is that certain people think that everyone should have a master's degree or PHd before they go find a real job. Now that is real foolishness.
I strongly agree with all this.
Because Mom and Dad wanted it I made a number of attempts at college and hated it.
However at a technical college I made the presidents list both years. Why? : For an hour in class we were taught how and why things worked and how to solve their problems. Then we went out to the lab and took these same things and hooked them up, ran them and diagnosed their faults.....
Optimizing learning isn't the only goal of childhood. Year-round schooling wreaks havoc on families with multiple children, as the tracks are frequently different for different kids, making family vacations nearly impossible. Kids need time to be kids, and families need time for fun experiences together. I don't hesitate to say that my summer months of creative play (and plenty of work around the house and at summer jobs) contributed as much to my growth as schooling did. Family time is what's being lost in this discussion. It's compressed enough as it is; a proposal to eliminate summer break will make that worse.
But I'm in agreement with the rest of what is said RE unions, buildings, civics, sports, and the DoE.
Do parents get "summer break"?
That summer break was so kids could work on the farm, bringing in the harvest, 12 hrs/day.
A lot of our school calendar is a farm based schedule even though a very small number of students have anything to do with a farm schedule.
Extended summer breaks are also quite stressful for a family and can be expensive trying to keep the young'uns occupied.
That makes me kind of laugh, imagining my parents expending either care or money trying to "keep me occupied" during the summer.
Good article, but government control of our children scares me.
As long as education is run by The Government there is no way a child should be under such jurisdiction year-around. We have enough problems with the propaganda pushed by bureaucrats; i.e. slavery was not the source for the 2nd amendment, Islam is not equivalent to Judeo-Christian heritage, capitalism is not the ruination of the world, and the freedom to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness does not mean equal outcomes for each individual.
Get rid of the DoE and bring back strong local school boards, then we'll talk. Having volunteered in the school system since 1966, I know the enormous waste of time and money that we, the taxpayers, could direct to enriching the education of our children. Start by eliminating Head Start. If you want a babysitter and food program, say so, but don't try to hide it as an "educational program".
My grandfather had to drop out of school at age twelve to support his widowed mother; he became highly successful in engineering and sales efforts. Another relative probably didn't attend beyond age eight for similar reasons; he became a physician at a time when entrance to med school was based solely on demonstrating proficiency (which he learned cleaning up labs). Jobs and apprenticeships worked well for them and, probably would serve some students better than sitting behind a desk force-feeding information. All students are not going to become statisticians just as many will never learn to repair a computer or construct a bridge over troubled waters.
Yes, abolish the age cohort progression. It is now possible to base education on actual learning rather than time serving. Khan Academy is having some success with this in schools.
The Khan model has also dealt with the other ignorant progression, the lecture or verbal lesson. Back when books were scarce and the teacher had all the knowledge, sitting around listening to them was all there was, but now we have freely available books but also computer guided learning. Making the lesson a one time, keep up or get behind prospect via lecture is just ignorant. If the instruction must be lecture, then it should be recorded so that repetition can be removed as the student can rewind and re-listen as needed.
If you go to the above system, there is no need for a fixed vacation as the student is tied to the "keep up or die" method of teaching currently used. So parents and students can take off as needed without "missing classes" and even keep up via computer learning.
The large education edifice would be less valuable as students could congregate if at all in smaller "lab" locations for individualized help after watching instruction online.
Civics, yes but like the "great books" and liberal arts in general, this requires only that the student know how to read and doesn't require classwork. An online module or two, perhaps with study groups to bring those at the same level together for discussion is all that is needed. No one needs a lecture in civics, they need a course of self study.
The previous assumes we return teaching kids how to think rather than what to think, i.e., critical thinking. A hundred years ago, they started critical thinking in 3rd grade, right after the rote learning of reading and writing and basic arithmetic.
Sport? For everybody? Really? How about everybody do Calculus. Exposure to sports, perhaps but no, everyone doesn't need to do sports. If you'll review, sports is where a lot of abuse of kids occurs through humiliation and shaming at the hands of ignorant coaches who despise those without ability.
Technical training is a plus. One organized not to teach rote skills but to teach tool skills, thinking skills, etc. basically synthesizing the cerebral learning in other coursework. These days we may need to teach old fashioned hand skills since they require more thought than using power equipment and modern conveniences. The courses, not to create skilled labor, but to create the link between mind and hand. Taking the mental construction and creating it in the physical world where false logic is revealed as a misshaped thing.
Sports for everyone? Ugh. Some of us are uncoordinated, hate the forced teamwork (introverts) and are incredibly self-conscious. Forced sports (in P.E.) did more harm than good to me.
I like the idea of choosing your physical activity, however. I would've loved to have spent my P.E. time just walking around the track with my Walkman.
What I like at our local high school is that they separate out the athletes and the non-athletes in P.E. Anyone on a sports team does part of their physical conditioning as their P.E. The regular non-sporty kids take their P.E. altogether, so there is no issue with the star football or basketball player taking over and making the non-athletic kids feel bad or stupid.
Some kids need the structure of moving from one grade to the next. Some don't. It would be nice to find out in kindergarten if your kid was self-motivated enough to move at his own pace. A child could be re-tested every year to get out of the 'normal' school pace. My son would have benefitted from that starting in 1st grade.
It has long been known that school as constituted is bad for kids, rips initiative and creativity right out of them. The quote below is from 100 years ago:
In spite of the fact that schools exist for the sake of education, there is many a school whose pupils show a peculiar "school helplessness"; that is, they are capable of less initiative in connection with their school tasks than they commonly exhibit in the accomplishment of other tasks.
Some tried to fix this but open-mindedness isn't conducive to easy management or indoctrination of kids.
How is initiative developed? Certainly not by having the teacher take all the initiative and responsibility in the conduct of the class period. To develop initiative, the pupils must exercise initiative, and the class period must provide this opportunity. To secure this initiative, there must be a change in the conduct of the class period.
We now have the technology to break away from the old fashioned control method of teaching and go to the known ways that permit kids to retain their self-starting and initiative traits. Is it ironic or just sad that the ones who are in position to effect these changes are the ones who thrived under the old system and so are unlikely to embrace new ways that might help those kids who fall by the wayside in the current system? So we can hardly expect the educators, or academics in general, to bring about the change.
The way pupils study, depends on what is emphasized. ... The reason that mechanical memorizing is the main part of study in the elementary school, high school and university, is that reproduction is the primary thing required. If boys and girls find that the teachers' questions ask for a reproduction of the text, they will memorize before thinking and without thinking. If, however, there is a thought question, it will cause them to organize and analyze the subject matter of the book, and then mechanical memorizing can not occupy such a prominent part.
I mostly believe in homeschooling at this time in America. The true history of her founding and why she is the shining city on the hill for all needs to be re-instilled upon her citizenry. Until we can get the youth of this (once?, ouch that pains me) magnificent country to think critically, be able to connect the dots, to spell, have decent manners, respect their parents first, then their elders next, and last - but certainly not the least and there are moe to list is - no more excuses for bad behavior! They need to feel and sit with the consequences they themselves have brought upon themselves. Now, you will say, but piperlord aren't you being... you were a kid once ... That is true with ONE big difference LEFTIST INDOCTRINATION of our youth for the past 30 yrs in the govt schools. Don't take my word for it - look it up for yourselves, there is truth and real evidence all over the occupy camps and on the net. No, not all are this way, only they don't get mentioned.
Sooooo, my answer to your topic is NO LONGER HRS to be able to indoctrinate. Period. I learned a hell of a lot myself as a kid climbing a tree squishing ants and dreaming than going to a public school, and my school was a good school back then (late 60's). Thanks for letting me comment...
I have to go with the homeschooling as well. Dewey helped design the public school system as a method to introduce group think and provide standardized thought. And you see it everywhere today from Zinn history to the Malthusian earthday sustainability jibberish produced at every educational institution. Propagandized students should not be the primary product of public education. If you absolutely need institutional instruction then at least provide vouchers. I do completely endorse learning trade and technical skills. They can be used for a lifetime. But they could be taught by employing local business shops to teach beginning skills in various areas, another reason for vouchers. But do get away from the crap we have today.
Well, there's several reasons there why you will not ascend to power anytime soon. First and foremost, however, is:
"Why should kids have life easier than the grown-ups who take so little time away from their work and pay the bills for the supposed professional education?"
Because they are, you know, kids. And because summer vacation is,you know, like the hula hoop, for kids.
Seventh: Get rid of the unions. Teaching is a calling, not a factory job and definitely should not be a government job.
Use of the term "calling" was/is often used to excuse paying teachers less than a living wage.
I would be in full agreement with this sentence if you would change "calling" to "profession".
Summer vacation was for me a chance to be with my family away from the social pressures of my school. It was the best of times and school was the worst. Just sayin"
My Modest Proposal
We buy up some very large tracts of land in northern Kansas and southern Nebraska. Every student, upon completion of the sixth grade moves to Kansas if they are a girl and to Nebraska if they are a boy. Then for two years they run around the corn fields milking cows, chasing calfs, plucking chickens and generally working their tails off. Bring them back in the ninth grade to finish high school. Most of them would never miss a step academically and with two weeks of review they would be right back on track. Let them work off all that foolishness and learn something about good, clean, hard work. :-)