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Thursday, January 27, 2011

SOTU and Education

I just finished reading the SOTU speech and got to sit in on a interview with Arne Duncan on Facebook, which it appeared to be mostly viewed by pro pot people and the unemployed – at least according to the comments. Secretary Duncan answered questions from a panel of concerned groups from Mother’s to MTV. While I do not agree with having a US department of education, if Secretary Duncan does “narrow its focus” I will admit to being content under our current political landscape.
For the SOTU I thought President Obama was on top of what needs done in education “It’s the family that first instills the love of learning in a child” and “Let’s remember AFTER (my emphasis) parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom.” He also talked about the need for success to come from “the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities.” This emphasis will get us on the right track. Unfortunately states are looking at using these comments to mandate parent involvement.
When the public modern school system started taking place the only group that really broke out of this mold was the Catholic school system. So unless you are Catholic and raised Catholic until recently you likely went to public school. Using this assumption, these parents that are currently not involved, must have learned sometime in their 12-16 years of public education that they aren’t needed. They had to learn that assumption somewhere. It took a few generations for our education system to degrade to the point where it is today, it will likely take generations to fix. So how do we speed up this reversal, how do we step back?
The obvious answer is to encourage home centered education. “Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done,” the President eloquently put it. Many parents don’t feel adequate helping their child. This is because the system they went through failed them. These same adults feel the need to put their child into the same system that failed them. Many of these Adults were raised in the time our public schools ranked #1 in the world (now #9 according to PISA). That would indicate even when we were #1 our population wasn’t getting the education they needed.
Our system is designed for job training. When in our fast paced technology changing world jobs change our adult population hasn’t been trained to switch careers with easy. The problem is they were educated with a certain job in mind, instead of educated to love learning and how to learn. The people who know how to learn will not be unemployed long because they can pick up a new skill quickly. If we can teach our children today how to learn instead of learning certain subjects we can turn our education system around faster.
The only education system that teaches you how to learn is the Classical model. It is the only method that is used now to train our elite athletes; it is the method that our most learned uses, even if they don’t know that is the method they are employing. First you must know the grammar of what you are doing, swinging a bat, manufacturing tires, and developing green technologies cannot begin until you can discuss it with others and that is having a common language. The next step is practice and applying that knowledge to the unknown. The final step is explaining what you now know to someone else. A good tip in college was studying in groups and if you could explain a question and answer to the group then you likely knew it. Can you think of anything you do well that did not follow these steps? If not, then why don’t we use them to teach?

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