Sunday, April 24, 2011

Schools Are For Children

"Children are our future."  Really?

There's nothing wrong with that pithy quote.  It's the way that our education system uses it that frustrates me.  It seems to me that there is only one way for a society to grow.  And that's with innovation.  This video on divergent thinking is a good starting point:

From that video alone, it's easy to see how our current education system forces students to think inside the box.  It's also pathetic how standardized tests are becoming the criterion for individual performance.  Even though I do quite well on standardized tests, it nevertheless bothers me how people can rely on those for complete information about a child's performance.

It seems to me like our education system is based off of the assumption that education is stagnant.  The way our students our taught today are really the same as the way it was taught the last generation.  However, the rest of the world is dynamic, and schools aren't paying enough attention to this.

Technology is in the pockets of most students these days, particularly in high school, and I don't necessarily agree with the arbitrary regulation of use of technology in classes.  In fact, many of the rules in school are transcendent powers from an arbitrary authority figure - the teacher.

School rules and classroom rules are imposed by dictatorial adults.  Of course many rules make sense, but some just don't matter...not in high school, anyway.

When schools emphasize cognitive development in high schoolers, do they really mean it?  Often, as a student, I feel like teachers don't really care how a child performs.  At the end of the day, it's just their job.  Now, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with that, however, it's definitely not going to improve a student's cognitive ability.  Thus, if a school plans to improve overall performance, shouldn't they limit how rules are set?

Authorities still follow Piaget's guidelines for cognitive development.  This is fine so long as they also incorporate the outside world.  Sadly, this is not the case.  Teachers and other staff members are frozen in their own generation, where blackboards and chalk were all that were needed.  Furthermore, their values are stuck in the past as well.

I can make the claim that schools are like tiny governments.  There is usually some sort of constitution which dictates the do nots for students.  The categorical imperative would say that this is fine.  But I think this only works if we follow the assumption that schools are actually benefiting students.  

For a teacher, a cellphone is a distraction.  For students, there is a psychological drive to use technology.  So when rules say "no cellphones," this is a major infraction on students' liberties.  Thus, students are warranted to expect an equally grand benefit, primarily in education.  But this where it all falls apart.  There is no measure for benefits.  No one can say if a class is beneficial.  Schools try to counter this by giving exams.  But are students being tested on their cognitive ability?  Or are they just being prepared for a test written by a middle-aged, white, middle-class man?

It seems like if we really care about how our students perform we should try to benefit them and not the teachers.  Let's be frank here.  Not all teachers teach.  Many just sit there and read out of a book and receive a paycheck.  So when schools write policies, they should be written for teachers as well, not just students.

Since the categorical imperative clearly does not work at the high school level, why not use utilitarianism?  Students and teachers alike don't necessarily enjoy the policies.  So, maybe we should change them.  Make them so that learning is beneficial to more constituents of a school.  Currently, when schools make policies, they are made with the intent of making extra money.  Better grades on tests imply more funds.  But if we truly care about our future in children, why not foster our children?  Why not encourage what they can do, not what they are limited by?  

In the U.S. we have tools needed for success, but we're not using them.  We're overly concerned about how teachers feel, when essentially, schools are for children.  We, as a society, need to change this.  If the teacher to student ratio is 1:30, does it even make sense to base policies off of teachers' desires?

Change is possible, but we should have the mindset that schools should benefit children, not provide for teachers.

Thanks for reading,

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