While the media was focused on Health Care(and Prof.Gates)yesterday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan went on TV and outlined his plan to improve public education, the next Big Item on President Obama's agenda. Basically he wants to use the old Wall Street technique of excessive compensation to the good producers. He wants to reward school districts that succeed by giving them massive amounts of money. And how is success to be judged? You guessed it, test scores.
With No Child Left Behind being shown to result in teaching for testing and not being that effective and being down played down on the one hand, here we have Sec.Duncan using the same inadequate technique to try to get better results. The problem is not that teachers and students are not trying, it is that we are using a century old system to try and teach our children. We are training workers for the industrial age, not educating citizens for the information age. The main thing students are taught in our present system is to sit quietly and all do the same thing at the same time. Most jobs that sort of education prepares for have now been shipped overseas. For an excellent article on how we got in this fix please see I.D.Socol's (Mich. State U.)blog on Change.Org under Education. In today's world, which is growing flatter everyday, children need to have not only the basic three R's but a good understanding of the world around them, both at home and abroad.
Sec. Duncan also suggested wider use of Charter Schools. Where is this leading, to a privatization of public schools? Charter Schools are as good and bad as public schools and not usually available to any but urban school districts This is a band-aid on a very large wound although they are sometimes a good source of ideas they are not the solution. The solution is in redesigning the curriculum to suit the needs of today's children and then pay school districts to implement them Nether is it appropriate to model America's schools after European or Asian Schools, America has always been the leader in innovation, invention and thinking out side the box. It is, after all, where the shot that was heard round the world came from. We have made a mistake by following a Germanic, training for industry model. It is time we got back to educating for the American Dream. There are plenty of good ideas out there including Educating for Human Greatness; Bruce L. Smith and sudburyschooling.com. and so on. Reinforcing the old methods is not going to improve things, we need tomorrows citizens to be well equipped for an increasingly complicated world. My own preference for curriculum building is to use history as a sort of Velcro ladder to attach everything else to, bringing in science and the arts etc, as they occurred in the process. Start with volcanos and cave men and work through history until you reach technology in the upper grades. If you are interested in more go to my blog at Thebestpublicschoolsever.blogspot.com
I do not hear Sec.Duncan talking about any of these things and until I do I very much doubt that we will get much of a Change in the way our children, our most precious resource, are educated.