Education, or brainwashing?

For some time now, it has been obvious that the approach to education used in the United States is not working.  Instead of rethinking that approach, we have continued to throw money at the problem, believing that it stems from poor quality instructors, or inferior text books, or the wrong size desks.  No one has seriously questioned the existing paradigm.

Yet, the American approach to mass education was born from a need for large numbers of factory workers, workers who could follow simple written instructions, and perform basic mathematical calculations.  Assembly lines resulted in assembly line schools, where every education was the same.  For a time, this system was hugely successful.  But, along about the 1960’s, it began to fail miserably.

By requiring that each student receive a ‘one size fits all’ education, creativity was stifled, risk taking was inhibited, and the potential of many students was never fulfilled.  The two most important things that a student learned in their 12 years of public education were ‘Be here on time’, and ‘Do what you are told’.  These are the traits that are essential for assembly line workers, because the line cannot start until every position is manned, and anyone not following procedures will ruin the work of everyone.

The introduction of television had a dramatic effect on education, but most educators refused to acknowledge this effect.  Attention spans decreased, and listening skills were neglected.  The standard model of one person lecturing to a class of 25 or 30 students was no longer was effective, because some of the students became bored too quickly, while others did not have the reading ability to keep up.

We now have the technology to educate every person in a unique, tailor- made fashion, emphasizing that person’s strengths, while building up their weak areas.  By using computers to teach subjects such as math, geography, and grammar, we could free up instructors for the one-on-one time that is so desperately needed in education today.  Instead of advancing students by class, we could have them develop proficiency while staying in a social group that they have come to know well.

We have the capability to make school something that kids would get excited about, and look forward to.  We could make it so that kids could learn at the rate that suits them, not one which is determined by the lowest common denominator.  The investment in technology would be small, compared to the expenses of dealing with dysfunctional citizens.  Teachers would still be a critical part of the education process, and would finally have the time to work with each student in the ways that would benefit that student the most.

There are very few assembly lines left in America, so I can’t see the rationale for educating our youth to work on one.  Insuring that every child can read and write at basic levels is not the solution to our crisis in education.  Insuring that every child is educated to the best of their abilities is the challenge that we face, if we wish to be a vital, energetic country in the future.

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