How can our schools do better?

How can our schools do better?

September 1, 2019 0 By Rick

Now that the new school year has started, I’m reminded of how I felt about school and education. I pretty much thought it sucked to be honest. I understood that I needed the math, the reading and the writing. As for the rest of the “stuff,” well I couldn’t really figure how I would ever use it in life. Consequently, just about the only thing I was good at was sports. I didn’t understand the system until I was 16 or 17, which barely gave me enough time to raise my grades and get accepted to university. I asked myself many times: “Could my school (and me, of course) have done better?” Fast forward many years and I end up teaching. I’ve taught at the high school and university level and remain very interested in education. I know now that schools can do better, of course. My question today is how can our schools do better? And apparently, I’m not the only one asking this question.

Reforming education
One of the more interesting articles I recently came across was about reforming education. Written by Peter Diamandis, this article hit the nail on the head about the problem with the U.S. education system (and more than likely many educational systems in other countries, too). It’s a fantastic and comprehensive article, so I’ll try to give you the highlights in this post. Here’s a condensed version of crucial issues he believes need changing and some suggestions on how to accomplish this.

Grading: In the traditional education system, you start at an “A,” and every time you get something wrong, your score gets lower and lower. In the gaming world (e.g. Angry Birds, etc.), you start with zero and every time you come up with something right, your score gets higher and higher. Sounds a lot more positive, doesn’t it?

Sage on the Stage: Most classrooms have a teacher up in front of class lecturing to a classroom of students, half of whom are bored and half of whom are lost (me, for example). Get the kids up front. Storytelling is a great way to practice and get comfortable with putting yourself and your ideas out there and overcoming any fears of public speaking.

Relevance: When I think back to elementary and secondary school, I realize how much of what I learned was never actually useful later in life. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t ever actually had to factor a polynomial in my adult life (thank God, but because I don’t think I could). They should learn what’s going on in the real world and how to handle it. That’s where critical thinking plays an importantrole. In a world flooded with often-conflicting ideas, baseless claims, misleading headlines, negative news, “fake news” and misinformation, learning the skill of critical thinking and checking your sources helps find the signal in the noise.

Imagination – Coloring Inside the Lines (blah!): Probably of greatest concern is programs so structured with rote memorization that they squash the originality from most children. Where do we pursue crazy ideas in our schools? Where do we foster imagination? We must encourage kids to develop their creative outlets early in everything from art to engineering to music to math. Kids are some of the most imaginative humans around, and it’s critical that they know how important and liberating imagination can be.

Boring: If learning in school is a chore, boring or emotionless, then the most important driver of human learning – passion – is disengaged. Having our children memorize facts and figures, sit passively in class and take standardized tests completely defeats the purpose. How about using curiosity instead?

Curiosity: It’s something innate in kids, yet something lost by most adults during their lives. Why? Why do we stop asking questions? Imagine a virtual reality module where for an hour each day, the children spend their time walking around a country in a VR world, hanging out with AI-driven game characters who teach them, engage them, and share the culture and the language. What a great way to learn a language.

Grit/Persistence: Grit is defined as “passion and perseverance in pursuit of long-term goals.” Teaching your kids not to give up, to keep trying, and to keep trying new ideas for something that they are truly passionate about achieving is extremely critical. This is where tolerance for failure becomes crucial. Tolerating failure is a difficult lesson to learn and a difficult lesson to teach. But it is critically important to succeeding in life. Kids should try to be critical of their best ideas (learn critical thinking), then they should be celebrated for “successfully failing” if they can identify critical flaws in their original ideas.

More than memorization and regurgitation
Wow! That’s a lot to digest, but I hope you got the picture. School needs to be so much more than rote memorization and “regurgitation” of facts and dates. It also needs to be objective and unbiased. The fact that a teacher may not like a student should never affect the grade. It needs to prepare our children to function successfully in a society that’s totally different from the one we grew up in. Just think what kind of kids we’d be turning out if we could implement some or all these. Maybe adults would need to go back to school, too? Hats off to Peter Diamandis! You can read the full article at