The American public school system has failed, plain and simple.
The “system” has been in desperate need of reform for over a century now. But never more so than today.
Basically unchallenged and unreformed since its very beginning more than two centuries ago, the public school system continues to fail students in one crucial regard: to prepare students to compete in a rapidly changing global economy, workplace, and world.
While nobody denies the function public schools serve in providing every student an opportunity to learn, the system is severely out of proportion with real world socio-political-economic changes.
The World is Flat; The Public School System is Not
To borrow a phrase from Thomas Friedman, the popular author and economist, The World is Flat. That is, unlike the past when one lived, socialized, worked, and learned in your immediate sphere from primary influences in the home and community, today the world is flat—global, digital, instantaneous, multicultural.
More and more people from all walks of life, all hailing from the four corners of the globe, are more plugged in than ever. Groups that otherwise had no ability to browse the internet and use a smartphone are now competing (and in many cases) dominating the global marketplace, leaving many American workers (and workers-to-be; i.e. students) in a difficult and dangerous place.
Now that, according to Friedman, we are living in Flat World 2.0, where vast technological upgrades are allowing for even more global competition, collaboration, outsourcing, and digitization, why does the school system remain mired in its outdated agrarian-industrial past?
Why, for instance, does the system insist on:
Teaching students to memorize facts for periodic exams?
Whether the bubble sheet exams, fill-in-the-blank questions, multiple choice tests, why do they test kids to death when that memorized information is forgotten about a semester later? When is any of that information ever applied in the real world? Employers want workers with skills, talents, a broad range of experiences and competencies—today more so than ever.
Isolating kids from the world of adults?
You go to school to one day get a job, any job, for the rest of your life. Why aren’t kids exposed to the multitude of workplace settings around them? Historically apprenticeships groomed students for the world of work; now unpaid internships are the standard, if you’re lucky enough to even get a worthwhile one.
Creating followers and conformists?
How can you be expected to understand your place in the world, your unique talents and contribution to those around you, if for most of your childhood and early adult life you sit in classrooms with students your own age, race, and class? When do you exercise independent, creative thought and experimentation without an authority figure (or bells and whistles) telling you “times up?” On to the next grade for more unrelated classes for which you memorize, pass exams, and rinse, repeat. Don’t forget the assigned school uniform.
Telling students that college secures a good career and financial future?
With college debt exceeding a trillion dollars, its value is questionable on that front alone. With many reports documenting vast underemployment and unemployment for tons of college grads, so-called higher education is in many cases bringing students down, not up. Today’s economy is one that places a premium on creating value. Four years of doing high school 2.0 could be better spent on learning and experimenting with ways to create value to those around you.
Too Harsh on School? Who or What to Blame?
Given that the school system is responsible for educating kids for almost two decades (if you include university), shouldn’t parents, and citizens in general, ask what it is doing (or not doing) to carry out that enormous task?
Think about it like this: we spend the most important, energetic, wondrous years of our lives with complete strangers who are tasked with properly educating, socializing and acculturating us for real world preparation (in other words: the rest of our lives)
Their only standard qualification for this colossal task? A bachelor’s degree from an “accredited” four-year university (with added assurance that a “masters” degree will be obtained in a timely fashion).
Ponder that for a second: a relatively young inexperienced stranger who met state-approved standards—nothing more, nothing less—is now deemed qualified to teach a classroom of 30 of the most complex of God’s creation!
This decades-long reliance on the school system alone demonstrates a fundamental facet of human nature: we typically do things simply because we’ve always done them. Rarely do we rock the boat. In the case of education, as you will see throughout the reading of this blog, TOO MUCH is it stake to shake things up.
With only a laptop in hand, passion in my heart, a personal mission to see young people awakened and inspired, I am setting out to shake things up for the better!
Will you join me in my journey?