Now Comes the Hard Part

In a comment to my rant about the reform policies of Arne Duncan, our next Secretary of Education, Brett asks some wonderful put-up-or-shut-up questions.

How do we “do school” while we overhaul the entire American education system (which would be a pretty monumental task)? How would such an event even begin? Where do you start?

In many ways, there are many similarities between the problems with our education system and those we have with the way we generate and use energy in this country.

In both cases a growing number of people recognize that the current system is falling apart but still we hang on the old way of doing things because it’s familiar, comfortable, and seems to be working based on our traditional understanding of “working”.

Nevertheless, we’re fast approaching a point where both systems will break down entirely for most people, although that point has probably already arrived for anyone in poverty.

For both energy and education, there is no single solution and making the necessary changes will require major alterations to our society as a whole.

We also should have started the process at least a decade ago.

However, all that crap doesn’t really address the practicalities of Brett’s questions.

If I was running things (yeah, right!), we’d start by getting rid of the antiquated agrarian school year calendar and pay teachers as if they were full-time employees.

Follow that with a complete overhaul of the curriculum used in most schools, one which has been crafted to fit into those artificial time units and assumes that almost all knowledge can be segmented in to neat little boxes.

Instead of training students to memorize facts, the replacement curriculum needs to emphasize the process of learning and help kids understand how to acquire, validate, manage, use, and communicate information.

Along the way we need to restructure K12 schools to get away from the idea that ultimate goal for every kid is to attend college and provide alternative programs for students with different interests and learning styles.

That’s just the start, of course.

But the biggest obstacle to all of this is convincing society that our traditional concept of public education is broken and needs replacing.

I have the feeling it will be easier to get them to give up oil.