Q: What is wrong with education as practiced in the United States?

A: A large fraction of students complete their education having not gained the skills and/or knowledge necessary to contribute meaningfully to society, it costs a huge amount of money, and it wastes an incredible amount of time (which, as we all know, is money ;) ).

Unfortunately, all these problems are linked. The costs of educating the populace are made higher by inefficiency, which also wastes the time of all parties involved. The students are also under-prepared because of the inefficient use of their time spent in educuo (see how well educated I am? I can even make up Latin phrases).

What is the main source of inefficiency? The students. Or, more precisely, when we try to teach them.

Consider this- according to Stephen Pinker's book, The Language Instinct, toddlers acquire, on average, something like a half-dozen words per hour. So answer me why the kids aren't being pushed? I mean, good grief! Children are nothing so much as learning machines. Why is it that there's any delay at all in getting the bastards stuffed full of useful information?

Further, their tiny little brains are incredibly more well-suited to learning than the hormone-addled brains of teens! We should to be able to graduate, from middle school, students who are literate, numerate, aware of the basic history of their society and the world, and familiar with the basics of how objects interact. All this, before they're completely consumed by their burgeoning desire to mate!

We should, as the saying goes, strike while the iron is hot, when it has some hope of retaining the useful information that we'll strive to imprint upon it. So, rather than making grammar school and middle school mere exercises in unpleasant babysitting, force these places to live up to the potential of the students.

And while it is fine and dandy to produce well rounded citizens, what we really need is for them to be able to read and write, add and subtract, think and experiment. There is little need to instruct them to: play instruments, sing, play games, talk about how they feel about themselves (this is important- recent studies indicate that concentrating too highly on the self-esteem of students has detrimental effects on their performance!), paint, or draw. Rather than wasting time on "rounding" the kids out, let them acquire a core set skills and then discover their own edges and corners and shapes.

No comments: