Tuesday, September 06, 2016

A 21st Century Education? Or a 19th Century Prussian Education?

It occurs to me that my current job should be mostly superfluous.

One occasionally hears the rhetoric that children ought to receive a 21st century education. Which makes me wonder why they're receiving a 19th century Prussian education on test-steroids. That's anything but a 21st century education.

If we wanted to give students a truly 21st century education, we would be doing this. Each and every student should walk in and pick up their iPad or equivalent and start using a set of computer programs designed to teach them to read, write, do math, learn science, learn social studies, etc. Each child would work at his or her own pace, and they could help each other.

The teachers in such a situation would be little more than facilitators. If there were students who couldn't get along for some reason, they could easily be moved, since there's no particular reason any child would have to be in any particular room for any of this to happen. The teachers would go around and make sure that the students were doing the work that was on the iPads, but if the iPads were properly programmed, even that wouldn't really be all that necessary.

The evidence of such programs around the world is very promising. These approaches have mostly been tried in developing countries, but U.S. education is often little better than most developing countries' educational systems anyway. But the origin of innovations shouldn't matter in the least. If something is working to educate children in one place in the world, it will work anywhere else, because human beings are fundamentally the same. We mostly all learn the same, think the same, etc. Those of us who are exceptions also, as it turns out, learn best using computer programs (people like me are almost certainly the ones who programmed them in the first place anyway).

Let's face it. The U.S. is nowhere near a 21st century educational system. It isn't in the interest of any education bureaucrat to make it one. But it most certainly is in their interest to make teaching more and more and more and more and more difficult so they are ensured jobs. Which is precisely why education is currently a bureaucratic nightmare driven by testing rather than places of learning. Places of learning don't need bureaucrats. And a truly 21st century place of learning doesn't need people like me, either.

But I'll take the pay all the same.
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