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Fixing The Wrong Part of the Problem

Will has once again written a post that attracted a very active and thoughtful discussion, this time keyed off of his view that the low graduation rate in the US indicates that something is terribly wrong with our education system.

But there’s one small part of one of the comments that’s been buzzing around in my warped little mind all day.

Fixing education isn’t just about fixing schools or preparing teachers better, or giving more assessments. It is about turning around our entire society.

Is that even possible? Can we actually “turn around” our society?

Societies change over time, of course, but they tend to do so in ways that can’t necessarily be predicted, forced, or controlled.

And aren’t institutions like those responsible for educating children reflections of the needs and wants of the society?

Although I was once a history major, I really don’t know enough about this area of social studies to even attempt an answer to these questions. They may not even be the right ones to ask.

However, it seems to me that “fixing” our education system will depend more on us adapting our concept of teaching and learning to fit the world we have than it will on changing the world to fit our current concept of “school”.


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  1. > Is that even possible? Can we actually “turn around” our society?

    Well, you’re going to have to.

    The big difference between American society and the rest of the western industrialized world is that the other nations pay much more attention to equity and shared services.

    In the U.S., though much more money is spent on things like health care and education, there remain huge disparities in services and opportunities. People who do not have a sufficient income are left to do without.

    Historically, the U.S. could get away with this, because of its population base, its wealth, and its access to resources. It could train enough of its own people, and import the rest.

    This will not be the case in the future. The population advantages are shifting to China and India, as they lift many more of their people out of poverty. Competition for resources has increased. And with the fall of the American dollar it is becoming increasingly difficult to import talent.

    If the United States does not enter in to a new program to educate and empower its citizens, it will be unable to match the innovation and development of other nations. This will relegate it – m ore quickly that you might suspect – to a less developed status.

  2. Dave

    I believe that many businesspeople will tell you that changing the “company culture” is probably the hardest thing you could try to do. It takes years of constant effort in every part of the company.

    And we’re saying that we have to do -that- to the entire country (or at least, the entire education system).

    I think the process is going to be very different from how a company would do it. A company would try to keep the same CEO and upper management through the entire process (once they had the right people in those places). Companies have some ability to choose their customers, but we can’t really kick people out of the country or the education system.

  3. It’s also about playing the blame game. Politicians and parents are too quick to blame the schools. Responsibility is initially learned at home. We need to work together as a society.

  4. Tim

    Stephen, you’re right that American society needs some major changes but I know enough of our short history to know that only happens with some pretty sudden outside motivation. We don’t do a good job of changing ourselves (see: prohibition) or adapting to the rest of the world. Sad, but true.

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