My brother asked this question, “If you could do anything you want regarding education, what would you do?”
This is a subject on which I’m passionate about given how I spend copious amounts of time trying to make really effective training products. So here goes.
A big variable is resources. Reality deals us a limited hand of teachers, time, wildly variable parental interest and equally variable students, some with learning or behavioral issues that would affect our “ideal” — in quotes because one situation’s ideal is another situation’s nightmare.
- We must attract and keep motivated, talented teachers. Maybe someday. In my ideal world, some reasonably high percent of taxes go to companies that employ humans since increasing automation favors the few who own it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m mostly a capitalist but I see a balance point where, insuring that lower paid workers share in some amount of societal gains, exceeds the cost of such insurance. Teaching is one of the areas ripe for that plan. Back to the question.
- Have small groups of people, probably no more than 10, who are encouraged to value working together. Anyone who consistently slows the group’s progress should be moved to another group in a way that people smarter than I can optimize.
- Discipline must be maintained enough to prevent disruption but with enough latitude to explore. As usual, balance is key and that doesn’t lend itself well to thinking we have “solutions” to this question. We don’t think anything is perfect, but rather we’re realistic and work towards improvements.
So then, what to teach?
- First and foremost, throughout the experience, inculcate students in the PROCESS of gaining reliable knowledge. If we graduated critical thinkers who understood HOW we improve reliability of knowledge, who were open to new or different ideas but, equally important, knew how to evaluate them, the world would be a far better place. Of course religion would die unless the process revealed that there was, in fact, any merit to it.
- Teach the basics and expose the specifics. For example, having a student actually LEARN algebra is nearly a waste. Having them be exposed to the ability to answer mathematical equations lets them know it’s even possible. Same with electronics, programming, farming, history, and every other subject. We must teach the basics, of course, but we waste immense amounts of time on details they’ll never use. What a shame.
- After the basics, allow specialization. A student who is INTERESTED in math, or music, or whatever, should be allowed to pursue it.
- Expose students to trades and value them as highly as anything else. A welder, carpenter, bricklayer, etc. should be as esteemed as much as a rocket scientist. But include what automation can do, how to learn different methods, how he can participate in the improvement of his craft *IF* he aspires to.
- Have grades like what we have now. That’s how life works — some will succeed more than others and it’s valuable to know that not applying oneself has consequences.