Warning- this post has nothing to do with running, barefoot or otherwise. If you’re not into random tangents, skip this one. It’s simply an experience-based rant.
Schools suck. As much as we would like to pat ourselves on the back and trumpet our few successes, the modern school is a abysmal failure. We’ve developed a system where we’re teaching skills that are minimally relevant to our society, tested with measurement tools that are neither reliable or valid, and set up putative measures when schools fail to meet the crappy-ass benchmarks set by the tests.
Schools are effective… for a small handful of students that excel in the current structure. Unfortunately they fail the majority of the time… and they’re becoming less and less relevant in today’s world. The factory-worker-turned white-collar-worker-production-factory format is irrelevant in the age of the Internet.
Schools should no longer be training workers to get the best jobs. They should be training people to make the best jobs. As Seth Godin has commented, schools should teach two things- real leadership and how to solve interesting problems.
Here are my solutions:
- Make school non-compulsory. People learn best when intrinsically motivated. Forcing students to learn anything is a really bad idea. Even if a few students are intrinsically motivated, they’re short-changed by teachers that are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to motivate students that don’t want to be there.
- Open schools to people of all ages. This is required because of #1. Also, this will teach people to interact with individuals of all ages. As it currently stands, schools segregate kids into groups of people one or two years apart. Students learn to socialize with people their own age… with limited interaction with people from other generations.
- Eliminate curriculum as it currently exists. Make schools a problem-based institution. The school would be a centerpiece of the local community and serve to solve problems. If the community has a problem, the school would be responsible for developing a solution. Various subjects would be taught as a means of solving these problems. For example, let’s say the community wants to attract more businesses to a downtown area. Some groups would be responsible for financial analysis. Others would be responsible for construction. Maybe one group would work on marketing. Through processes like this, all subjects would be taught through practical, relevant application.
- Eliminate grades. Grades are nothing more than an external motivator that sap long-term motivation. Furthermore, they’re poor predictors of future success… unless you’re measuring success in academics. The groups in school would have a problem to solve. There would be no failure, only successfully solving the problem. If the problem is not solved, they would try another solution. This would continue until the problem is solved.
- Eliminate the current structure of control. There would be no school board, superintendent, or principals. Schools would be run by the participants. Each person involved gets a single vote regardless of their role regardless of age. It’s true democracy in action. If a bad decision is made, the school will face the consequences and learn from the mistake.
- Anyone could teach any subject. Teaching would be de-certified. Any motivated individual in the community that has skills to pass on would be allowed to teach their skills to help solve the community problems. The teaching force would be entirely volunteer for reasons of motivation- it would be important for the teachers to be intrinsically motivated to pass on knowledge, not make money.
- The “school” is the community. It may consist of a physical building, but much of the work would likely occur off-site. Where appropriate, classrooms and necessary supplies would be provided.
- The school operation would be entirely funded by the local community. They would choose to spend as much or as little as they would like. Since the lines between the community and school are blurred and the school operation directly benefits the community as a whole, there’s a clear motivation to provide the school with the necessary resources to serve its purpose.
There you have it- my solution to making schools better. It’s a radical idea, but it would make schools hubs of innovation that would teach relevant skills in a socially-responsible way.
What do you think?