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Thread: 10 Problems with American Education & How to Fix Them

  1. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by awake View Post
    1 through 10 are great solutions, but the people who enjoy directing the public school system can not possibly begin to employ any of them. It would mean the removal of their state backed privilege. It would require a complete free market in education, good luck getting that past the teachers unions.

    ! through 10 are precisely what an individual must do once he escapes the public school system.

    Great points none the less...
    Why would it require a complete free-market in education? There are still private schools that can innovate. Just look at Sudbury schools, they're certainly innovative! Though I personally believe a little bit more structure combined with a fair amount of in-school self-education would be preferable, at least for my future children. But again, that's just MY preference.

    I'll start my own vision of the ideal school myself if I have to. All it requires is a smart business proposal, some interested investors and some interest parents.
    Last edited by BenjaminRosenzweig; 06-28-2012 at 08:02 PM.



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  3. #32

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    This school got the right investors and the right parents. I'm sure I could as well once I have my MBA and an adequate business proposal. I'm still working on my bachelor's in Business Administration so that won't be anytime soon. But in the meantime, I'll continue to study education and improve my ideas.
    Last edited by BenjaminRosenzweig; 06-28-2012 at 08:10 PM.

  4. #33

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    9. Students Are Not Being Encouraged to Pursue Any Level of Self-Education

    You would think that in school, at least half of what a student reads would be books, essays and articles that he or she chooses to read based on his or her own unique, individual interests. But alas, most students have very little, if any freedom at all over the path of their own education. However, some do.

    In her book, The Reading Zone, Nancie Atwell advocates reading workshops in which grade school, middle school and high school students pick what books they want to read from the school library rather than being assigned what to read. While she's only applied this to fiction and literary non-fiction, her method has proven wildly successful not only in improving children's reading and writing levels but transforming children into passionate, lifelong readers. Here are a few passages from her book:

    Over my twenty years of teaching reading in a workshop, the annual average for a class of seventh and eighth graders is at least forty titles. In the lower grades at our school, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the numbers are similarly remarkable. The K6 teachers and I make time every day for our students to curl up with good books and engage in the single activity that consistently correlates with high levels of performance on standardized tests of reading ability. And that is frequent, voluminous reading. A child sitting in a quiet room with a good book isn't a flashy or, more significantly, marketable teaching method. It just happens to be the only way anyone ever grew up to become a reader.

    And that is the goal: for every child to become a skilled, passionate, habitual, critical reader—as novelist Robertson Davies put it, to learn how to make of reading a personal art.” Along the way, CTL teachers hope our students will become smarter, happier, more just, and more compassionate people because of the worlds they experience within those hundreds of thousands of black lines of print.

    We know that students need time to read, at school and at home, every day. And we understand that when particular children love their particular books, reading is more likely to happen during the time we set aside for it. The only surefire way to induce a love of books is to invite students to select their own.

    So CTL teachers help children to choose books, develop and refine their literary criteria, and carve out identities for themselves as readers. We get that its essential that every child we teach be able to say, These are my favorite authors, genres, books, and characters this year, and this is why.” Personal preference is the foundation for anyone who will make of reading a personal art.

    Starting in kindergarten and going straight through until the end of high school, free choice of books should be a young readers right, not a privilege granted by a kind teacher. Our students have shown us that opportunities to consider, select, and reconsider books make reading feel sensible and attractive to children right from the start and that they will read more books than we ever dreamed possible and more challenging books than we ever dreamed of assigning to them.
    And I can personally testify for the effectiveness of Nancy Atwell's methods. At the beginning of my fifth grade at St. Raymond's Elementary School, I was a below-average student who spent the majority of his time playing video games and watching television. However, during my first week in Ms. Grassi's classroom I saw a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on a bookshelf in the classroom, started reading it in class, read it on the bus ride home, read it when I got home and stayed up until four-a-clock in the morning until I passed out with the book still in my hands. I believe I finished the rest of the book in about three or four days and read the other three books that had been published thus far in less than two weeks. I'm not sure how many books I read in fifth grade but in sixth grade we had reading journals. Students were required to read at least five books over the course of the school year. I read eighty-seven, all of them fantasy-fiction. In seventh grade, I got tested for ADHD because I wasn't paying attention in class. One of their tests showed that I was at a thirteenth-grade reading level and a twelfth-grade writing level. And what was the psychiatrist's diagnosis? I had ADHD. He wrote me a prescription for adderall. I'm not kidding.

    That being said, I believe that at least half the books students choose read should be informative non-fiction. For example, in a high school career research and analysis class, I would ask students to read at least six non-fiction books relevant to their career interests in addition to a reasonable amount of assigned reading. For example, a student interested in both medicine and psychology might read The Future of Medicine by Stephen C. Schimpff, On Becoming a Doctor: Everything You Need to Know about Medical School, Residency, Specialization, and Practice by Tania Heller, The Innovator's Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care by Dr. Jerome Grossman, Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Again, my aim would be for at least half of what a student reads in school to be books, essays and articles he or she has chosen based on his or her own unique, individual interests. I would not do away entirely with assigned reading material and testing.
    Last edited by BenjaminRosenzweig; 06-28-2012 at 09:54 PM.

  5. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by BenjaminRosenzweig View Post
    Why would it require a complete free-market in education? There are still private schools that can innovate. Just look at Sudbury schools, they're certainly innovative! Though I personally believe a little bit more structure combined with a fair amount of in-school self-education would be preferable, at least for my future children. But again, that's just MY preference.

    I'll start my own vision of the ideal school myself if I have to. All it requires is a smart business proposal, some interested investors and some interest parents.

    Innovation in the public school sense is impossible, innovations in private schools is illusionary at best. Innovation would be students picking only the courses they wanted to learn, focusing on thier strengths and interests...can you imagine a student simply opting out of mathematics until they were 15? or any other subject until they felt ready and wanting to learn it? How about no bells or buzzers in schools, simply no interruption learning of single subjects at a time? How about teachers who do in home courses? No licenses for teachers? Teaching liberty not as a political indocternation but as a means to individual impowerment. How about teaching people in logic and reasoning to be able to dissolve collective idioticracy in its roots? The goal to self seek truth in knowledge...innovation of this level will never be allowed to exist in the government provided schools and their "private" so called "innovative" schools.

    Our current political school system is designed for one thing: control of masses; to become good serfs for the expropritors..

    Here is an article I found enlightening as to what we are being robbed of and the ignorant views people spew that glue the status quo in place.

  6. #35

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    Too much of education focuses on infrastructure. Learning has little to do with how many bricks are in the building...yet it remains an attractive target for politicians because it is tangible. Online schools would REVOLUTIONIZE the system. I've been in the seen and seen how major it can be.

    In K-12, too much emphasis is on sports/non-academics. Biology teachers are hired because they can coach the girls swim team, etc... This waters talent and wastes money.

    The teacher accreditation system has little to do with quality and everything to do with privilege. We need to end occupational licensing in teaching.

    Courses are often too long. It would be much more efficient to break courses into 'mini-courses' perhaps taught one month at a time. This would offer more flexibility and creativity in the types of subjects taught to students. It would also mean that redoing courses would be easier.

    Truancy laws force disruptive students in with students who want to learn. If the students don't want to learn and the teachers don't want to teach them...they shouldn't be there.

    Scheduling creates too much dead time. If you cut out the long lunches/recess/study hall etc...you can dramatically shorten the school day and increase capacity. Incentives for summer school should be offered as this improves utilization efficiency of infrastructure.

    Higher education needs to be more specialized. I went to school to get a business degree. It made no sense, that I had to study chemistry...or that the university had to spend millions on the chemistry lab when they didn't really offer a serious chemistry program.

    Many of the general/introductory courses in college are dual-purpose. They prep for the majors and provide electives for the rest. So in my economics class, the 'professor' told us we wouldn't study monetary policy because that was reserved a later course for economics majors. So I didn't get to learn about monetary policy. Made sense to him as the same subject would be taught twice to the majors, but it hurt the rest of us. Same story in my psychology class...we just learned about names and places as the actual pych stuff would get taught to the majors doing more advanced courses.

    More concepts/logic needs to be taught as opposed to meaningless dates and places. I want to learn about philosophy...not about the Aristotle, Socrates, history of philisophy, etc...

    Courses need to be somewhat applicable...many math courses (while they bragged real world applications) were not that.

    Universities need to stop hiring professors that barely speak English...and probably wouldn't even be good communicaters if they taught in their native language to native students.

    I can understand perhaps that education can't be completely vocational...but the aspects that are, need to be well administered, inline with what the business community demands, and honest about the job prospects upon gradation. eg My major included MBA enrollment as counting for hired rates (very sneaky).

    Non-vocational courses need to less required. Art appreciation/poetry/lit/minority studies/community services...that type of stuff is not helpful. Practical courses like on health, the constitution, civil liberties, monetary policy, environmental ecology, reproductive health, etc... are (or should be if taught right) good because they keep you from harming others or yourself.

    Many universities and even high schools need to have better preview options of what courses and majors entail. The dependencies need to be mapped out in a clear and concise format. Elective options clearly explained and outlines/sample tests should readily available for each course so a student can understand in depth of what they are getting into. Too often students are shooting in the dark and given horrible advisory advice (like I was).

    A dirty little secret is that much of early grade and pre-school is camouflaged day-care...that the parents don't have to pay for. Used to hear about this when I was in school...the super-intendant would get get a ton of flack for closing school during snow days because god forbid the parents HAD to put them in day-care instead. Day-care/education should not be conflated.

    Tests should not be created to trick students. Students should be setup to fail (like curves) to make other students look good. Grades shouldn't be that much of a requirement for higher courses (creates grade inflation). Also great disparities in teachers. You can have identical subjects and get different grades just because the teacher grades differently. If you depended on these grades? Tough... Learning always comes from the individual. Subject matter should be intrinsically interesting and encourage the student to learn it for its own merit. Tests should be clearly defined as to what the students needs to know and how they can learn it.

    College application system is messed up. Questionable criteria is used (like high school grades which can be gamed by selecting the right courses and are zero-sum). If education has true capacity issues it needs to increase capacity or raise prices...not create more political gimmicks to gain access to schools. Like references (very political), being a minority, or listing fake 'social clubs' that Madison requires you be a part of to enroll. Even the college 'clubs' are messed up. They are all resume-padders and mostly offer very little benefit.

    Just some ideas...I could go on and on.

    The biggy is to get government out of education so there is accountability between those purchasing education and those selling it and those learning it. This would dramatically increase efficiency and effectiveness (not hard to do when state schools cost 10-20k per student per year). This would indirectly cause sooo many other reforms.

  7. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by awake View Post
    Innovation in the public school sense is impossible, innovations in private schools is illusionary at best. Innovation would be students picking only the courses they wanted to learn, focusing on thier strengths and interests...can you imagine a student simply opting out of mathematics until they were 15? or any other subject until they felt ready and wanting to learn it? How about no bells or buzzers in schools, simply no interruption learning of single subjects at a time? How about teachers who do in home courses? No licenses for teachers? Teaching liberty not as a political indocternation but as a means to individual impowerment. How about teaching people in logic and reasoning to be able to dissolve collective idioticracy in its roots? The goal to self seek truth in knowledge...innovation of this level will never be allowed to exist in the government provided schools and their "private" so called "innovative" schools.
    The government does not own private schools...

    And what you're basically referring to is a Sudbury school. They're already out there.

  8. #37

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    It went on for a while. Eventually I made the pitch that we were still using a 16th century model of education (gathering kids in classrooms), even though technological advancements over the last 15 years has made it obsolete. The Connecticut Constitution guarantees everyone a "free" education, but it doesn't say how that has to be carried out. The state could buy every student in Connecticut a computer and an internet connection for $500/year, and set them up with web sites like Khan Academy, Wikipedia, and some history web sites or whatever, and save billions of dollars and take a huge step towards eliminating property taxes (which is what got me thinking about this in the first place).

    I think it was the idea of eliminating property taxes that got her. She's not yet fully on board with radical changes to the education model, but she did start including Khan Academy into her lesson plan at one of the universities she teaches, giving future teachers ideas on how to use it to cut costs.
    I'm about to write the tenth section about using Khan Academy as well as math software in-school so that students can learn math at their own pace, which has proven wildly successful in the hundred or so schools that use it so far. As for Connecticut switching all their public schools, or even one of their public schools to a completely online environment, I don't think that we'll see public schools make any such radical change anytime soon. Until private schools innovate to the point that public schools are forced by the public demand to either adapt or lose all their students and then all their funding, most will remain completely unchanged. There is, however, there is at least one private online high school in the U.S.; the Stanford University Online High School.

    Also, while I believe completely online courses may be appropriate for some grade school and high school students, and at least one online high school is now available, I don't think it's suitable for all children and young adults. Personally, I'd rather my child conduct a fair amount of self-direct learning, balanced with school-direct learning in a classroom environment. I wouldn't want my child sitting at home all day studying either by themselves or with only a few of their closest friends. I'd rather they have an environment in which they can meet hundreds, if not thousands of other students and have interesting discussions with a wide variety of students of different interests and viewpoints. But that's just MY preference, I would never force it on anybody else nor force them to ever pay for my child's school.
    Last edited by BenjaminRosenzweig; 06-29-2012 at 03:56 PM.

  9. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by BenjaminRosenzweig View Post
    This is an article I'm currently working on. I'd appreciate any suggestions or constructive criticism.
    Forgive the bluntness, but the whole article suffers from the fundamental misapprehension that compulsory state schooling is failing to achieve its goals.
    There are no crimes against people.
    There are only crimes against the state.
    And the state will never, ever choose to hold accountable its agents, because a thing can not commit a crime against itself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by awake View Post
    Innovation in the public school sense is impossible, innovations in private schools is illusionary at best. Innovation would be students picking only the courses they wanted to learn, focusing on thier strengths and interests...can you imagine a student simply opting out of mathematics until they were 15? or any other subject until they felt ready and wanting to learn it?
    Here's another great example of why public schools are hopeless.
    You have teachers teaching the same thing 4-7 times a day, ad nauseum, right?
    So riddle me this: we're 100 years into this, so how come it's still the case that if a student doesn't get it, they're fucked?
    You have a teacher in a room going over the material up to 6 more times that very day, but if the student needs to hear the material again, fuck you, get in your gym shorts.
    There are no crimes against people.
    There are only crimes against the state.
    And the state will never, ever choose to hold accountable its agents, because a thing can not commit a crime against itself.

  11. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by PierzStyx View Post
    Privatize the schools and then you'll get more power over what your child learns since the schools will have to have great methods and teach what you want in order to get your support. No one learning model will be applicable or useful for all schools.
    I'm merely expressing my opinion on how I believe how a school should be run, just as any other entrepreneur would express how he believes any type of business should be run. I should probably rename the article "10 Problems with American Education & How Schools Can Fix Them". I'll also include a section on why a one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn't work and how we really need education entrepreneurs to open schools based on new ideas. But not just my ideas, a variety of new ideas. That's the real key to progress; not game-changing public school reform (which is either impossible or close to it) but a new wave of education entrepreneurs.

    Still, it's worth reaching out to public school teachers. They can try out new things without fear of being fired. At least I think they can. Most of them have life tenure after all. IMHO, most of them genuinely want what's best for their students. They're simply in a system that discourages them from trying news things.
    Last edited by BenjaminRosenzweig; 06-29-2012 at 04:25 PM.

  12. #41

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    Courses need to be somewhat applicable...many math courses (while they bragged real world applications) were not that.
    Agreed, what a school might be able to do is offer integrated courses like Engineering & Algebra, Economics & Algebra, Computer Science & Algebra and Operations Research & Algebra. Students could pick which course they wanted to take based on their individual interests. Ideally, someone like Salman Khan could create free online lessons, quizzes and tests such that students could cover the material in-class and at their own pace.
    Last edited by BenjaminRosenzweig; 06-30-2012 at 04:29 PM.

  13. #42

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    Here's my second draft...


    10 Problems with American Education & How Schools Can Fix Them




    1. Too Much Emphasis on Literary Analysis, Not Enough Career Research and Analysis

    The typical four-year high school English curriculum consists almost entirely of studying fictional literature as a means by which to improve reading comprehension, improve writing ability and develop analytical thinking ability. While reading and analyzing literature is a critical part of a well-rounded education, it is overemphasized. Furthermore, this overemphasis within the high school English curriculum has failed to achieve its primary goal: inspiring a love of fine literature in its students. This particular issue will be addressed in a later section, but back to the matter at hand.

    I would replace the standard fiction-focused syllabus of a college bound or honors freshman English class with a Career Research and Analysis class in which students improve their reading comprehension, improve their writing ability and develop analytical thinking ability while learning about different career fields and job opportunities. Different career fields and job opportunities that students could study include:

    1. Engineering: Project Engineer, Civil Engineer, Structural Engineer, Environmental Engineer, Biomedical Engineer
    2. Health Care: Physician, Nurse, Physical Therapist, Physician Assistant
    3. Technology Sector: Software Architect, Systems Engineer, Software Engineer, IT Analyst
    4. Business Administration: Entrepreneur, CEO, CIO, CMO
    5. Finance & Accounting: Accountant, Actuary, Financial Adviser
    6. Psychology: Counselor, Psychiatrist, Forensic Psychologist, Cognitive Neuroscientist
    7. Natural Sciences: Biologist, Chemist, Physicist, Botanist, Virologist, Forensic Scientist
    8. Social Sciences: Anthropologist, Economist, Sociologist, Lawyer

    Over the course of six months, students would take tests and write essays regarding a variety of different career fields, job opportunities and educational pathways. The class would also include inviting guest speakers from every different career field to discuss their experiences in the industry, what is necessary to succeed in their industry, what it is like working in the industry and what level of education is necessary to get different types of jobs in said industry. These guest speakers — most of whom would be students' parents — would be asked to have a few talking points prepared for their presentation. Naturally, this presentation would then be followed by a question and answer period. The teacher would also incorporate some of the guest speaker's points into the next test. Ideally, at least one guest speaker would be brought in every other week and there would be at least one from every different career field.

    After 6 months of career and analysis, the class would begin 2 months of college research and analysis. Students would research different colleges, would compare and contrast them in their essays, learn about their different admission requirements and visit a few different local colleges. Former students who are now attending college, as well as a few professors, would be brought in as guest speakers.

    As a result of taking this course, students will be able to conduct the rest of their high school career with a sense of purpose. They will also have three more years to conduct further independent research, to reflect on their interests and to arrive at a final decision before they choose what college to attend and what subject they will major in. Similarly, I would like to see colleges replace most first semester freshman English courses with a Career Research and Analysis course.

    2. Students Are Not Asked to Study Current Events

    The typical High School Social Studies curriculum consists entirely of studying history. The question arises; why aren't students studying, analyzing and discussing both historical events and current events during their social studies classes? The whole point of studying history is that we apply it's lessons to contemporary issues. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat our past mistakes. However, high school students — and even the overwhelming majority of college students — are NEVER asked to compare and contrast current events with past events, current political issues with past political issues, current economic conditions with past economic conditions, current wars with past wars and so on. In other words, while the purpose of studying history is that we applies its lessons to contemporary issues, students are not being asked to do this; they are simply made to memorize and then regurgitate historical facts without ever putting them to practical use.

    "Practical application is the only mordant which will set things in the memory. Study without it is gymnastics, and not work, which alone will get intellectual bread." - James Russel Lowell

    Why do many students find history boring? Well, what causes something to be boring? Among other things, irrelevancy. Unless students are able to relate historical wisdom to something that can affect their lives in the world today, history is entirely irrelevant. It may contain a few interesting stories but without application, historical knowledge is nothing more than trivia.

    "Whatever study tends neither directly nor indirectly to make us better men and citizens is at best but a specious and ingenious sort of idleness; and the knowledge we acquire by it only a creditable kind of ignorance, nothing more." - 1st Viscount Bolingbroke, Henry St. John

    Students should never be asked to study history without simultaneously spending an equal amount of time studying and researching the modern world. Aspects of the modern world that students should be asked to research MUST include multiple opposing viewpoints regarding contemporary politics at the local, state and federal level. Otherwise, how are we to expect them to be informed voters by the time they turn eighteen? Students should also be asked to study opposing viewpoints regarding modern U.S. economic conditions, global economic conditions, public policy issues, foreign governments, terrorism, national security and so on.

    Some ideas for compare/contrast papers that students could write include:

    The Iraq War and the Vietnam War
    The War on Terror and the Cold War
    The United States and the Roman Republic
    The Great Recession and the Great Depression
    President Obama and Any Former President
    One's Current Governor and Any Former Governor
    The Advent of Wireless Electricity and the Advent of Wireless Internet

    3. Students are Not Studying Opposing Viewpoints

    As it stands today, there does not seem to be a single high school, college or university in the world that asks students to study opposing viewpoints on both contemporary and historical issues as an integral part of their social studies and social science programs. Rather, students are asked to simply regurgitate the biases of their textbooks, teachers and professors. This would be a perfect system for people living under a monarchy, in which citizens are to simply do as they are told, but as we live in a Republic, this makes absolutely no sense. Having students simply regurgitate what they are told not only biases students towards a rigid political ideology (whether conservative or liberal), but it is inherently boring and fails to prepare students for the real world.

    "The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is by hearing what can be said about it be persons of every variety of opinion and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by ever character of mind. No wise man has ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this." - John Stuart Mill

    "Difference of opinion leads to inquiry, and inquiry to truth." - Thomas Jefferson

    First, let's address high school and college history courses. While there are historical facts we can all agree on, every history textbook is, to some extent, politically biased. For example, most history textbooks paint Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a savior who helped Americans survive the Great Depression. However, seldom will you find any reference to the Depression of 1920 in which the immediate response was to cut the federal budget in half, reduce the national debt by one-third and slash taxes for all income levels. Why isn't this mentioned? In my opinion, it is because the economy recovered in eighteen months and what followed was the economic prosperity that defined the Roaring Twenties. For those who advocate huge increases in government spending during economic downturns, this makes absolutely no sense. So they skip over it. Meanwhile, Herbert Hoover's response to the Great Depression was not to avoid government intervention but to take it to an unprecedented level. Herbert Hoover’s response to the market crash of 1929 was was to increase federal spending by over 50% between 1929 and 1932, undertake huge public works projects and raise tariffs at an unprecedented rate with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff act, a piece of legislation Henry Ford told Harding was “economic stupidity” . Then, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected and increased government spending even more. In my opinion, this is why the Great Depression lasted ten years. (For more on this, check out FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression by Jim Powell.)

    But while I feel confident in my assessment, I would never want to indoctrinate students with my own personal political, economic and social viewpoints. Rather, high school and college students should be be allowed to study multiple opposing viewpoints, apply some critical thinking, evaluate the evidence, discuss the issue with their peers and come to their own evidence-based conclusions. Beginning in freshman year of high school, every student should learn how to identify their social studies textbook's point of view and begin studying contentious issues regarding U.S. History, World History and current events. Again, the Opposing Viewpoints series provides us with a good starting point. Opposing Viewpoints in American History Volumes I and II, Opposing Viewpoints in World History I and II as well as a number of other entries in the Opposing Viewpoints series can serve as vital resources in helping students pick issues to study and begin their research. However, students should not be restricted to only considering the arguments presented by the editors of the Opposing Viewpoints series; it is merely a good foundation and starting point for further research and analysis.

    "In our media-intensive culture it is not difficult to find differing opinions. Thousands of newspapers and magazines and dozens of radio and television talk shows resound with differing points of view. The difficulty lies in deciding which opinion to agree with and which 'experts' seem the most credible. The more inundated we become with differing opinions and claims, the more essential it is to hone critical reading and thinking skills to evaluate these ideas. Opposing Viewpoints books address this problem by directly by presenting stimulating debates that can be used to enhance and teach these skills. The varied opinions contained in each book examine many difference aspects of a single issue. While examining these conveniently editing opposing viewpoints, readers can develop critical thinking skills such as the ability to compare and contrast authors' credibility, facts, argumentation styles, use of persuasive techniques, and other stylistic tools. In short, the Opposing Viewpoints Series is an ideal way to attain the higher-level thinking and reading skills so essential in a culture of diverse and contradictory opinions." - Mitchell Young

    As for high school and college social science courses, whether the subject is economics, political science, global studies, sociology or social psychology, there is some level of political bias both in the textbooks and in the lectures. The consideration of opposing viewpoints should be integrated into all of these courses so that again, students can apply some critical thinking, thoroughly evaluate the evidence, discuss contentious issues with their peers and come to their own evidence-based — not ideology-based — conclusions.

    4. Students are Not Studying Public Policy

    Every high school and college in America should have a required course regarding opposing viewpoints on public policy. Rather than studying a textbook, students could be provided with books from the opposing viewpoints series, videos of formal debates and similar resources so that they could dedicate their time to studying, researching, writing about and discussing the issues that every American should have an informed opinion about. For example:

    1. The Middle East
    2. The War on Terrorism
    3. Gun Control
    4. Welfare
    5. Health Care
    6. Genetic Engineering
    7. Global Warming
    8. Civil Liberties
    9. Abortion
    10. Criminal Justice
    11. Government Spending
    12. Global Resources

    A course on public policy could be incorporated into any college curriculum. As part of a high school curriculum, I would make it the area of study in a Junior English Class. Thus:

    Freshman English: Career Research and Analysis
    Sophomore English: Literary Analysis
    Junior English: Public Policy
    Senior: Elective

    5. Art Classes are Suppressing Students' Creativity with Rigid Curricula

    One would think that in an art class, you would be able to dedicate your time to creative self-expression. If a student wants to learn how to paint portraits in art class, he or she could find a few books on the subject, agree on a set of projects with the teacher and then proceed to begin learning and perfecting his or her art work. If one week you feel like learning how to draw cars, you could pick up a book on it in the library and immediately start drawing cars. If you feel like painting a wedding scene, you can paint a wedding scene. If you want to paint something that represents the effect that your father's passing away had on you, you could spend some time figuring out how to represent it in a painting and then proceed to do so. But not so fast! In an art class you have to draw, paint, sculpt or graphically design what the teacher tells you to. If he or she wants everyone to draw flowers, you are all drawing flowers. If the teacher wants everyone painting landscapes this week, you are spending your week painting landscapes.

    But why? What successful artist spends their time drawing, painting, graphically designing or sculpting things they do not want to? What is art without passion? A complete waste of time. In art classes, every student should have a self-directed curriculum based upon their areas of interest, their passions and their personal objectives. If a student wants to draw comic books, for God's sake, let him draw comic books! Then grade him based solely upon whether his artistic ability is steadily improving over time. In such a class setting, the art teacher could dedicate their time helping students decide on what their projects will be from week-to-week, providing specific feedback on completed projects and giving help to students who specifically ask for it. Furthermore, students would be able to teach each other how to draw certain things or how to draw with a certain style. In this way, the students' self-directed learning would also have a very positive and rewarding social aspect. I mean honestly, who wouldn't have enjoyed teaching their high school or college crush how to paint or draw something?

    6. Students are Not Developing a Practical Life Philosophy


    Every high school student should graduate with a comprehensive life philosophy, ideally one based on continually improving themselves and the world around them, and have the practical knowledge necessary to lead a successful life. A life philosophy course would be an interdisciplinary course that would address such questions as:

    1. What is my ideal lifestyle?
    2. What are my ambitions, my dreams and my goals?
    3. What are my values?
    4. How does one overcome social conflict?
    5. How does one have a successful marriage?
    6. What are my ethical principles?
    7. How can I continually improve both myself and the world around me?

    When students address the questions, sources would include their own personal experiences, self-improvement literature, positive psychology, relationship psychology, the field of ethics, sociology and so on.

    For example, students might choose to read The 7 Habits by Stephen Covey:

    The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. It has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages since first publication, which was marked by the release of a 15th anniversary edition in 2004. Covey presents an approach to being effective in attaining goals by aligning oneself to what he calls "true north" principles of a character ethic that he presents as universal and timeless.

    Each chapter is dedicated to one of the habits, which are represented by the following imperatives:

    Habit 1: Be Proactive
    Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions (and how they align with life's principles) are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the subsequent consequences that follow.

    Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
    Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Envision the ideal characteristics for each of your various roles and relationships in life.

    Habit 3: Put First Things First
    Plan, prioritize, and execute your week's tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluate whether your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you toward goals, and enrich the roles and relationships that were elaborated in Habit 2.

    Habit 4: Think Win-Win
    Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a "win" for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.

    Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
    Use empathetic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive problem solving.

    Habit 6: Synergize
    Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone. Get the best performance out of a group of people through encouraging meaningful contribution, and modeling inspirational and supportive leadership.

    Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
    Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle.
    7. Education Majors are Not Learning From the Most Successful Teachers

    If you want to learn how to be great at doing something, what is the first thing you do? I would say it is to find a few people that are well-known for being absolutely amazing at doing it and rigorously study their methods and ideas. This applies whether we're talking about playing a particular sport, running a business, playing music, practicing medicine, performing surgery, parenting and yes, teaching. However, very few, if any education majors are asked to study the methods and ideas of the the best teachers in recent history; teachers like Marva Collins, Dr. Lorraine Monroe, Rafe Esquith and Jaime Escalante. All of these teachers have received widespread acclaim for their their ability to take under-performing students from impoverished and crime-ridden areas and transform them into lifelong honors students who go on to become highly successful doctors, engineers, civil rights lawyers, business owners, professors, teachers and so on.

    If you wish to see some of these teachers in action, go to Youtube and type in these keywords:

    1. Jaime Escalante
    2. Dr. Lorraine Monroe 60 minutes
    3. 2. Marva Collins 60 minutes

    What do all these teachers have in common? For one, they were more than just teachers! They were also leaders and marketers. As leaders, they totally and completely believed in every student's ability to succeed despite their surroundings and they communicated this belief to their students in sincere, charismatic and inspiring ways. Even though school officials, parents, other teachers and even some students tried to convince them otherwise, these teachers were unfazed and continued to communicate this belief to the point that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. As marketers, these teachers were all able to sell what they were teaching before they taught it. Students never had to ask, "why are we learning this?" These teachers were able to answer that question long before they started teaching the material. But unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of teachers never learn how to passionately and effectively communicate the value of what they are teaching to their students. Thus, we are currently a nation great at marketing consumer products but terrible at marketing the value of studying to our students. This is just one of the many important lessons that we can learn from some of the most successful teachers in recent history.

    So if education majors aren't learning from the proven methods of the most successful teachers in recent history, what are the learning? For the most part, they are being taught a series of unproven theories and cheap gimmicks with absolutely no real-world results to back them up. For example, there is a recent theory that student should never be asked to remember facts and take tests but rather should only be taught how to be "critical thinkers" . However, they fail to take into consideration that if you don not know what the facts are then you cannot separate them from opinions and then think critically about those opinions. For example, if a student does not learn about the agreed-upon facts of the Vietnam War, how can or she possibly decide whether it was an ill-advised war that needlessly cost tens of thousands of young Americans their lives or a strategic military action necessary to halt the spread of communism?

    8. Students are Not Studying Recent Developments in Science, Technology and Medicine

    What is the purpose of high school science courses? Is it so that the small-percentage of students that go on to pursue careers involving the application of physics, chemistry or biology can get a head start on their studies? That would be quite a tremendous waste of time and energy for the rest of students now would it not? I would say the purpose of the high school science curriculum should be that every student is better able to understand the implications of recent developments in science, technology and medicine. Progress in these closely-related areas is radically transforming the nature of everyone's existence; thus studying them is fascinating and inherently valuable regardless of what career path one chooses.

    However, high school students — and indeed, the overwhelming majority of college students — are rarely, if ever, asked to study recent developments in science and technology. Furthermore, very few, if any students are asked to regularly apply what they've learned in their textbooks to understanding recent developments in science and technology. I would dedicate the entire first month of a high school course in biology to just studying recent developments in science, technology and medicine that are directly related to biology. After peaking their interest in the subject of biology, I would regularly ask students to apply what they're learning in their textbook to better understand recent scientific developments. Some new stories I might cover include:

    Lab-Made Organ Implanted For First Time - CNN
    New Hope May Lie In Lab-Created Heart - CNN
    Cancer Patient Gets World’s First Artificial Trachea - Time
    Scientists Look to Cure HIV With Gene Therapy - Fox News
    Programmable DNA Scissors Found for Bacterial Immune System - Science Daily

    9. Students Are Not Being Encouraged to Pursue Any Level of Self-Education


    You would think that in school, at least half of what a student reads would be books, essays and articles that he or she chooses to read based on his or her own unique, individual interests. But alas, most students have very little, if any freedom at all over the path of their own education. However, some do.

    In her most recent book, The Reading Zone, Nancie Atwell advocates English class reading workshops in which grade school, middle school and high school students are able to pick what books they want to read from the school library and read them both in-class and at home rather than being assigned specific books to read. While she's only applied this to fiction and literary non-fiction, her method has proven wildly successful not only in improving children's reading and writing levels but transforming children into passionate, lifelong readers. Here are a few passages from The Reading Zone:

    Over my twenty years of teaching reading in a workshop, the annual average for a class of seventh and eighth graders is at least forty titles. In the lower grades at our school, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the numbers are similarly remarkable. The K6 teachers and I make time every day for our students to curl up with good books and engage in the single activity that consistently correlates with high levels of performance on standardized tests of reading ability. And that is frequent, voluminous reading. A child sitting in a quiet room with a good book isn't a flashy or, more significantly, marketable teaching method. It just happens to be the only way anyone ever grew up to become a reader.

    And that is the goal: for every child to become a skilled, passionate, habitual, critical reader—as novelist Robertson Davies put it, to learn how to make of reading a personal art.” Along the way, CTL teachers hope our students will become smarter, happier, more just, and more compassionate people because of the worlds they experience within those hundreds of thousands of black lines of print.

    We know that students need time to read, at school and at home, every day. And we understand that when particular children love their particular books, reading is more likely to happen during the time we set aside for it. The only surefire way to induce a love of books is to invite students to select their own.

    So CTL teachers help children to choose books, develop and refine their literary criteria, and carve out identities for themselves as readers. We get that its essential that every child we teach be able to say, These are my favorite authors, genres, books, and characters this year, and this is why.” Personal preference is the foundation for anyone who will make of reading a personal art.

    Starting in kindergarten and going straight through until the end of high school, free choice of books should be a young readers right, not a privilege granted by a kind teacher. Our students have shown us that opportunities to consider, select, and reconsider books make reading feel sensible and attractive to children right from the startand that they will read more books than we ever dreamed possible and more challenging books than we ever dreamed of assigning to them.
    And I can personally testify for the effectiveness of Nancy Atwell's methods. At the beginning of my fifth grade at St. Raymond's Elementary School, I was a below-average student who spent the majority of his time playing video games and watching television. However, during my first week in Ms. Grassi's classroom I saw a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on a bookshelf in the classroom, started reading it in class, read it on the bus ride home, read it when I got home and stayed up until four-a-clock in the morning until I passed out with the book still in my hands. I believe I finished the rest of the book in about three or four days and read the other three books that had been published thus far in less than two weeks. I'm not sure how many books I read in fifth grade but in sixth grade we had reading journals. Students were required to read at least five books over the course of the school year. I read eighty-seven, all of them fantasy-fiction. In seventh grade, I was tested for ADHD because I wasn't paying attention in class. One of their tests showed that I was at a thirteenth-grade reading level and a twelfth-grade writing level. And what was the psychiatrist's diagnosis? I had ADHD. He wrote me a prescription for adderall. I'm not kidding.

    That being said, I believe that at least half the books students read should be informative non-fiction. For example, in a high school career research and analysis class, I would ask students to read at least five non-fiction books relevant to their career interests. For example, a student interested in entrepreneurship and business management might read:

    The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

    "Eric has created a science where previously there was only art. A must read for every serious entrepreneur—and every manager interested in innovation."
    —Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, Opsware Inc. and Netscape

    “This book should be mandatory reading for entrepreneurs, and the same goes for managers who want better entrepreneurial instincts. Ries’s book is loaded with fascinating stories—not to mention countless practical principles you’ll dearly wish you’d known five years ago.” —Dan Heath, co-author of Switch and
    Made to Stick

    “Ries shows us how to cut through the fog of uncertainty that surrounds startups. His approach is rigorous; his prescriptions are practical and proven in the field. The Lean Startup will change the way we think about entrepreneurship. As startup success rates improve, it could do more to boost global economic growth than any management book written in years.” —Tom Eisenmann, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Harvard Business School

    “The Lean Startup is the book whose lessons I want every entrepreneur to absorb and apply. I know of no better guide to improve the odds of a startup's success."
    —Mitchell Kapor, Founder, Lotus Development Corp.

    "At Asana, we've been lucky to benefit from Eric's advice firsthand; this book will enable him to help many more entrepreneurs answer the tough questions about their business."
    —Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook and Asana

    Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable. The Lean Startup is a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched.

    Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. This is just as true for one person in a garage or a group of seasoned professionals in a Fortune 500 boardroom. What they have in common is a mission to penetrate that fog of uncertainty to discover a successful path to a sustainable business.

    The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want. It enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans inch by inch, minute by minute.

    Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs - in companies of all sizes - a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it’s too late. Ries provides a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups in a age when companies need to innovate more than ever.
    He may also read books like:

    Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
    The Mind of the Market: How Biology and Psychology Shape Our Economic Lives by Michael Shermer
    Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School by Philip Delves Broughton
    The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman

    In a Public Policy Course, a student could choose to read:

    The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book) Teacher's Edition: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction - Jon Stewart
    It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom - Andrew P. Napolitano
    Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama - Bill O' Reilly
    Alternative Energy: Beyond Fossil Fuels - Dana Meachen Rau
    Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future - Robert Bryce

    In her Career Research and analysis class, a student interested in both medicine and psychology might read:

    The Future of Medicine by Stephen C. Schimpff
    The Innovator's Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care by Dr. Jerome H. Grossman
    On Becoming a Doctor: Everything You Need to Know about Medical School, Residency, Specialization, and Practice by Tania Heller
    Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

    Some people might protest, "but they won't understand everything in those books!" Exactly! I read plenty of books in high school filled with concepts I was unfamiliar with. The things I wasn't familiar with, I would simply look up on an online encyclopedia. (Of course, it would have been better had I access to the digital version of the Encyclopedia Britannica.) The things I still couldn't understand filled me with the desire to (Gasp!) read textbooks so that I'd have the prerequisite, foundational knowledge to better understand the concepts underlying all the exciting books I was reading. Books like:

    The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
    How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci by Michael Gelb
    Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle
    The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule by Michael Shermer
    Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson
    Truth in Virtue of Meaning - Russel
    Gillian
    Bad News: The Decline of Reporting by Tom Fenton
    The Great American Jobs Scam by Greg Leroy
    Myth, Lies and Downright Stupidity by John Stossel

    Of course, my only interests at the time were philosophy, psychology, politics and public policy — none of which directly offer me a career path I'd be interested in — but I have since expanded my interests to include business management, entrepreneurship and education.

    10. Students are Not Being Provided With the Chance to Study Math at Their Own Pace

    Solving a set of math problems is like solving a puzzle. One person might take two hours to solve a puzzle, another might take one and a half hours, another ten minutes. Why then, do twenty-five students in a classroom all have to cover math material at the same pace? Why do some students have to be bored in class while others have to feel incompetent because they need some extra time to cover certain material?

    As it stands now, the one-size-fits-all approach is the norm but there are already dozens of schools that are starting to breaking the mold:

    “This,” says Matthew Carpenter, “is my favorite exercise.” I peer over his shoulder at his laptop screen to see the math problem the fifth grader is pondering. It’s an inverse trigonometric function: cos-1(1) = ?

    Carpenter, a serious-faced 10-year-old wearing a gray T-shirt and an impressive black digital watch, pauses for a second, fidgets, then clicks on “0 degrees.” Presto: The computer tells him that he’s correct. The software then generates another problem, followed by another, and yet another, until he’s nailed 10 in a row in just a few minutes. All told, he’s done an insane 642 inverse trig problems. “It took a while for me to get it,” he admits sheepishly.

    Carpenter, who attends Santa Rita Elementary, a public school in Los Altos, California, shouldn’t be doing work anywhere near this advanced. In fact, when I visited his class this spring—in a sun-drenched room festooned with a papercraft X-wing fighter and student paintings of trees—the kids were supposed to be learning basic fractions, decimals, and percentages. As his teacher, Kami Thordarson, explains, students don’t normally tackle inverse trig until high school, and sometimes not even then.

    But last November, Thordarson began using Khan Academy in her class. Khan Academy is an educational website that, as its tagline puts it, aims to let anyone “learn almost anything—for free.” Students, or anyone interested enough to surf by, can watch some 2,400 videos in which the site’s founder, Salman Khan, chattily discusses principles of math, science, and economics (with a smattering of social science topics thrown in). The videos are decidedly lo-fi, even crude: Generally seven to 14 minutes long, they consist of a voice-over by Khan describing a mathematical concept or explaining how to solve a problem while his hand-scribbled formulas and diagrams appear onscreen. Like the Wizard of Oz, Khan never steps from behind the curtain to appear in a video himself; it’s just Khan’s voice and some scrawly equations. In addition to these videos, the website offers software that generates practice problems and rewards good performance with videogame-like badges—for answering a “streak” of questions correctly, say, or mastering a series of algebra levels. (Carpenter has acquired 52 Earth badges in math, which require hours of toil to attain and at which his classmates gaze with envy and awe.)

    Initially, Thordarson thought Khan Academy would merely be a helpful supplement to her normal instruction. But it quickly become far more than that. She’s now on her way to “flipping” the way her class works. This involves replacing some of her lectures with Khan’s videos, which students can watch at home. Then, in class, they focus on working problem sets. The idea is to invert the normal rhythms of school, so that lectures are viewed on the kids’ own time and homework is done at school. It sounds weird, Thordarson admits, but this flipping makes sense when you think about it. It’s when they’re doing homework that students are really grappling with a subject and are most likely to need someone to talk to. And now Thordarson can tell just when this grappling occurs: Khan Academy provides teachers with a dashboard application that lets her see the instant a student gets stuck.

    “I’m able to give specific, pinpointed help when needed,” she says.

    The result is that Thordarson’s students move at their own pace. Those who are struggling get surgically targeted guidance, while advanced kids like Carpenter rocket far ahead; once they’re answering questions without making mistakes, Khan’s site automatically recommends new topics to move on to. Over half the class is now tackling subjects like algebra and geometric formulas. And even the less precocious kids are improving: Only 3 percent of her students were classified as average or lower in end-of-year tests, down from 13 percent at midyear.

    For years, teachers like Thordarson have complained about the frustrations of teaching to the “middle” of the class. They stand at the whiteboard, trying to get 25 or more students to learn the same stuff at the same pace. And, of course, it never really works: Advanced kids get bored and tune out, lagging ones get lost and tune out, and pretty soon half the class isn’t paying attention. Since the rise of personal computers in the early ’80s, educators have hoped that technology could solve this problem by offering lessons tailored to each kid. Schools have blown millions, maybe billions, of dollars on sophisticated classroom technology, but the effort has been in vain.

    Khan’s videos are anything but sophisticated. He recorded many of them in a closet at home, his voice sounding muffled on his $25 Logitech headset. But some of his fans believe that Khan has stumbled onto the secret to solving education’s middle-of-the-class mediocrity. Most notable among them is Bill Gates, whose foundation has invested $1.5 million in Khan’s site. “I’d been looking for something like this—it’s so important,” Gates says. Khan’s approach, he argues, shows that education can truly be customized, with each student getting individualized help when needed.
    Last edited by BenjaminRosenzweig; 06-30-2012 at 05:09 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BenjaminRosenzweig View Post
    Here's my second draft...


    10 Problems with American Education & How Schools Can Fix Them




    1. Too Much Emphasis on Literary Analysis, Not Enough Career Research and Analysis

    The typical four-year high school English curriculum consists almost entirely of studying fictional literature as a means by which to improve reading comprehension, improve writing ability and develop analytical thinking ability. While reading and analyzing literature is a critical part of a well-rounded education, it is overemphasized. Furthermore, this overemphasis within the high school English curriculum has failed to achieve its primary goal: inspiring a love of fine literature in its students. This particular issue will be addressed in a later section, but back to the matter at hand.

    I would replace the standard fiction-focused syllabus of a college bound or honors freshman English class with a Career Research and Analysis class in which students improve their reading comprehension, improve their writing ability and develop analytical thinking ability while learning about different career fields and job opportunities. Different career fields and job opportunities that students could study include:

    1. Engineering: Project Engineer, Civil Engineer, Structural Engineer, Environmental Engineer, Biomedical Engineer
    2. Health Care: Physician, Nurse, Physical Therapist, Physician Assistant
    3. Technology Sector: Software Architect, Systems Engineer, Software Engineer, IT Analyst
    4. Business Administration: Entrepreneur, CEO, CIO, CMO
    5. Finance & Accounting: Accountant, Actuary, Financial Adviser
    6. Psychology: Counselor, Psychiatrist, Forensic Psychologist, Cognitive Neuroscientist
    7. Natural Sciences: Biologist, Chemist, Physicist, Botanist, Virologist, Forensic Scientist
    8. Social Sciences: Anthropologist, Economist, Sociologist, Lawyer

    Over the course of six months, students would take tests and write essays regarding a variety of different career fields, job opportunities and educational pathways. The class would also include inviting guest speakers from every different career field to discuss their experiences in the industry, what is necessary to succeed in their industry, what it is like working in the industry and what level of education is necessary to get different types of jobs in said industry. These guest speakers — most of whom would be students' parents — would be asked to have a few talking points prepared for their presentation. Naturally, this presentation would then be followed by a question and answer period. The teacher would also incorporate some of the guest speaker's points into the next test. Ideally, at least one guest speaker would be brought in every other week and there would be at least one from every different career field.

    After 6 months of career and analysis, the class would begin 2 months of college research and analysis. Students would research different colleges, would compare and contrast them in their essays, learn about their different admission requirements and visit a few different local colleges. Former students who are now attending college, as well as a few professors, would be brought in as guest speakers.

    As a result of taking this course, students will be able to conduct the rest of their high school career with a sense of purpose. They will also have three more years to conduct further independent research, to reflect on their interests and to arrive at a final decision before they choose what college to attend and what subject they will major in. Similarly, I would like to see colleges replace most first semester freshman English courses with a Career Research and Analysis course.

    2. Students Are Not Asked to Study Current Events

    The typical High School Social Studies curriculum consists entirely of studying history. The question arises; why aren't students studying, analyzing and discussing both historical events and current events during their social studies classes? The whole point of studying history is that we apply it's lessons to contemporary issues. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat our past mistakes. However, high school students — and even the overwhelming majority of college students — are NEVER asked to compare and contrast current events with past events, current political issues with past political issues, current economic conditions with past economic conditions, current wars with past wars and so on. In other words, while the purpose of studying history is that we applies its lessons to contemporary issues, students are not being asked to do this; they are simply made to memorize and then regurgitate historical facts without ever putting them to practical use.

    "Practical application is the only mordant which will set things in the memory. Study without it is gymnastics, and not work, which alone will get intellectual bread." - James Russel Lowell

    Why do many students find history boring? Well, what causes something to be boring? Among other things, irrelevancy. Unless students are able to relate historical wisdom to something that can affect their lives in the world today, history is entirely irrelevant. It may contain a few interesting stories but without application, historical knowledge is nothing more than trivia.

    "Whatever study tends neither directly nor indirectly to make us better men and citizens is at best but a specious and ingenious sort of idleness; and the knowledge we acquire by it only a creditable kind of ignorance, nothing more." - 1st Viscount Bolingbroke, Henry St. John

    Students should never be asked to study history without simultaneously spending an equal amount of time studying and researching the modern world. Aspects of the modern world that students should be asked to research MUST include multiple opposing viewpoints regarding contemporary politics at the local, state and federal level. Otherwise, how are we to expect them to be informed voters by the time they turn eighteen? Students should also be asked to study opposing viewpoints regarding modern U.S. economic conditions, global economic conditions, public policy issues, foreign governments, terrorism, national security and so on.

    Some ideas for compare/contrast papers that students could write include:

    The Iraq War and the Vietnam War
    The War on Terror and the Cold War
    The United States and the Roman Republic
    The Great Recession and the Great Depression
    President Obama and Any Former President
    One's Current Governor and Any Former Governor
    The Advent of Wireless Electricity and the Advent of Wireless Internet

    3. Students are Not Studying Opposing Viewpoints

    As it stands today, there does not seem to be a single high school, college or university in the world that asks students to study opposing viewpoints on both contemporary and historical issues as an integral part of their social studies and social science programs. Rather, students are asked to simply regurgitate the biases of their textbooks, teachers and professors. This would be a perfect system for people living under a monarchy, in which citizens are to simply do as they are told, but as we live in a Republic, this makes absolutely no sense. Having students simply regurgitate what they are told not only biases students towards a rigid political ideology (whether conservative or liberal), but it is inherently boring and fails to prepare students for the real world.

    "The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is by hearing what can be said about it be persons of every variety of opinion and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by ever character of mind. No wise man has ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this." - John Stuart Mill

    "Difference of opinion leads to inquiry, and inquiry to truth." - Thomas Jefferson

    First, let's address high school and college history courses. While there are historical facts we can all agree on, every history textbook is, to some extent, politically biased. For example, most history textbooks paint Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a savior who helped Americans survive the Great Depression. However, seldom will you find any reference to the Depression of 1920 in which the immediate response was to cut the federal budget in half, reduce the national debt by one-third and slash taxes for all income levels. Why isn't this mentioned? In my opinion, it is because the economy recovered in eighteen months and what followed was the economic prosperity that defined the Roaring Twenties. For those who advocate huge increases in government spending during economic downturns, this makes absolutely no sense. So they skip over it. Meanwhile, Herbert Hoover's response to the Great Depression was not to avoid government intervention but to take it to an unprecedented level. Herbert Hoover’s response to the market crash of 1929 was was to increase federal spending by over 50% between 1929 and 1932, undertake huge public works projects and raise tariffs at an unprecedented rate with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff act, a piece of legislation Henry Ford told Harding was “economic stupidity” . Then, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected and increased government spending even more. In my opinion, this is why the Great Depression lasted ten years. (For more on this, check out FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression by Jim Powell.)

    But while I feel confident in my assessment, I would never want to indoctrinate students with my own personal political, economic and social viewpoints. Rather, high school and college students should be be allowed to study multiple opposing viewpoints, apply some critical thinking, evaluate the evidence, discuss the issue with their peers and come to their own evidence-based conclusions. Beginning in freshman year of high school, every student should learn how to identify their social studies textbook's point of view and begin studying contentious issues regarding U.S. History, World History and current events. Again, the Opposing Viewpoints series provides us with a good starting point. Opposing Viewpoints in American History Volumes I and II, Opposing Viewpoints in World History I and II as well as a number of other entries in the Opposing Viewpoints series can serve as vital resources in helping students pick issues to study and begin their research. However, students should not be restricted to only considering the arguments presented by the editors of the Opposing Viewpoints series; it is merely a good foundation and starting point for further research and analysis.

    "In our media-intensive culture it is not difficult to find differing opinions. Thousands of newspapers and magazines and dozens of radio and television talk shows resound with differing points of view. The difficulty lies in deciding which opinion to agree with and which 'experts' seem the most credible. The more inundated we become with differing opinions and claims, the more essential it is to hone critical reading and thinking skills to evaluate these ideas. Opposing Viewpoints books address this problem by directly by presenting stimulating debates that can be used to enhance and teach these skills. The varied opinions contained in each book examine many difference aspects of a single issue. While examining these conveniently editing opposing viewpoints, readers can develop critical thinking skills such as the ability to compare and contrast authors' credibility, facts, argumentation styles, use of persuasive techniques, and other stylistic tools. In short, the Opposing Viewpoints Series is an ideal way to attain the higher-level thinking and reading skills so essential in a culture of diverse and contradictory opinions." - Mitchell Young

    As for high school and college social science courses, whether the subject is economics, political science, global studies, sociology or social psychology, there is some level of political bias both in the textbooks and in the lectures. The consideration of opposing viewpoints should be integrated into all of these courses so that again, students can apply some critical thinking, thoroughly evaluate the evidence, discuss contentious issues with their peers and come to their own evidence-based — not ideology-based — conclusions.

    4. Students are Not Studying Public Policy

    Every high school and college in America should have a required course regarding opposing viewpoints on public policy. Rather than studying a textbook, students could be provided with books from the opposing viewpoints series, videos of formal debates and similar resources so that they could dedicate their time to studying, researching, writing about and discussing the issues that every American should have an informed opinion about. For example:

    1. The Middle East
    2. The War on Terrorism
    3. Gun Control
    4. Welfare
    5. Health Care
    6. Genetic Engineering
    7. Global Warming
    8. Civil Liberties
    9. Abortion
    10. Criminal Justice
    11. Government Spending
    12. Global Resources

    A course on public policy could be incorporated into any college curriculum. As part of a high school curriculum, I would make it the area of study in a Junior English Class. Thus:

    Freshman English: Career Research and Analysis
    Sophomore English: Literary Analysis
    Junior English: Public Policy
    Senior: Elective

    5. Art Classes are Suppressing Students' Creativity with Rigid Curricula

    One would think that in an art class, you would be able to dedicate your time to creative self-expression. If a student wants to learn how to paint portraits in art class, he or she could find a few books on the subject, agree on a set of projects with the teacher and then proceed to begin learning and perfecting his or her art work. If one week you feel like learning how to draw cars, you could pick up a book on it in the library and immediately start drawing cars. If you feel like painting a wedding scene, you can paint a wedding scene. If you want to paint something that represents the effect that your father's passing away had on you, you could spend some time figuring out how to represent it in a painting and then proceed to do so. But not so fast! In an art class you have to draw, paint, sculpt or graphically design what the teacher tells you to. If he or she wants everyone to draw flowers, you are all drawing flowers. If the teacher wants everyone painting landscapes this week, you are spending your week painting landscapes.

    But why? What successful artist spends their time drawing, painting, graphically designing or sculpting things they do not want to? What is art without passion? A complete waste of time. In art classes, every student should have a self-directed curriculum based upon their areas of interest, their passions and their personal objectives. If a student wants to draw comic books, for God's sake, let him draw comic books! Then grade him based solely upon whether his artistic ability is steadily improving over time. In such a class setting, the art teacher could dedicate their time helping students decide on what their projects will be from week-to-week, providing specific feedback on completed projects and giving help to students who specifically ask for it. Furthermore, students would be able to teach each other how to draw certain things or how to draw with a certain style. In this way, the students' self-directed learning would also have a very positive and rewarding social aspect. I mean honestly, who wouldn't have enjoyed teaching their high school or college crush how to paint or draw something?

    6. Students are Not Developing a Practical Life Philosophy


    Every high school student should graduate with a comprehensive life philosophy, ideally one based on continually improving themselves and the world around them, and have the practical knowledge necessary to lead a successful life. A life philosophy course would be an interdisciplinary course that would address such questions as:

    1. What is my ideal lifestyle?
    2. What are my ambitions, my dreams and my goals?
    3. What are my values?
    4. How does one overcome social conflict?
    5. How does one have a successful marriage?
    6. What are my ethical principles?
    7. How can I continually improve both myself and the world around me?

    When students address the questions, sources would include their own personal experiences, self-improvement literature, positive psychology, relationship psychology, the field of ethics, sociology and so on.

    For example, students might choose to read The 7 Habits by Stephen Covey:



    7. Education Majors are Not Learning From the Most Successful Teachers

    If you want to learn how to be great at doing something, what is the first thing you do? I would say it is to find a few people that are well-known for being absolutely amazing at doing it and rigorously study their methods and ideas. This applies whether we're talking about playing a particular sport, running a business, playing music, practicing medicine, performing surgery, parenting and yes, teaching. However, very few, if any education majors are asked to study the methods and ideas of the the best teachers in recent history; teachers like Marva Collins, Dr. Lorraine Monroe, Rafe Esquith and Jaime Escalante. All of these teachers have received widespread acclaim for their their ability to take under-performing students from impoverished and crime-ridden areas and transform them into lifelong honors students who go on to become highly successful doctors, engineers, civil rights lawyers, business owners, professors, teachers and so on.

    If you wish to see some of these teachers in action, go to Youtube and type in these keywords:

    1. Jaime Escalante
    2. Dr. Lorraine Monroe 60 minutes
    3. 2. Marva Collins 60 minutes

    What do all these teachers have in common? For one, they were more than just teachers! They were also leaders and marketers. As leaders, they totally and completely believed in every student's ability to succeed despite their surroundings and they communicated this belief to their students in sincere, charismatic and inspiring ways. Even though school officials, parents, other teachers and even some students tried to convince them otherwise, these teachers were unfazed and continued to communicate this belief to the point that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. As marketers, these teachers were all able to sell what they were teaching before they taught it. Students never had to ask, "why are we learning this?" These teachers were able to answer that question long before they started teaching the material. But unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of teachers never learn how to passionately and effectively communicate the value of what they are teaching to their students. Thus, we are currently a nation great at marketing consumer products but terrible at marketing the value of studying to our students. This is just one of the many important lessons that we can learn from some of the most successful teachers in recent history.

    So if education majors aren't learning from the proven methods of the most successful teachers in recent history, what are the learning? For the most part, they are being taught a series of unproven theories and cheap gimmicks with absolutely no real-world results to back them up. For example, there is a recent theory that student should never be asked to remember facts and take tests but rather should only be taught how to be "critical thinkers" . However, they fail to take into consideration that if you don not know what the facts are then you cannot separate them from opinions and then think critically about those opinions. For example, if a student does not learn about the agreed-upon facts of the Vietnam War, how can or she possibly decide whether it was an ill-advised war that needlessly cost tens of thousands of young Americans their lives or a strategic military action necessary to halt the spread of communism?

    8. Students are Not Studying Recent Developments in Science, Technology and Medicine

    What is the purpose of high school science courses? Is it so that the small-percentage of students that go on to pursue careers involving the application of physics, chemistry or biology can get a head start on their studies? That would be quite a tremendous waste of time and energy for the rest of students now would it not? I would say the purpose of the high school science curriculum should be that every student is better able to understand the implications of recent developments in science, technology and medicine. Progress in these closely-related areas is radically transforming the nature of everyone's existence; thus studying them is fascinating and inherently valuable regardless of what career path one chooses.

    However, high school students — and indeed, the overwhelming majority of college students — are rarely, if ever, asked to study recent developments in science and technology. Furthermore, very few, if any students are asked to regularly apply what they've learned in their textbooks to understanding recent developments in science and technology. I would dedicate the entire first month of a high school course in biology to just studying recent developments in science, technology and medicine that are directly related to biology. After peaking their interest in the subject of biology, I would regularly ask students to apply what they're learning in their textbook to better understand recent scientific developments. Some new stories I might cover include:

    Lab-Made Organ Implanted For First Time - CNN
    New Hope May Lie In Lab-Created Heart - CNN
    Cancer Patient Gets World’s First Artificial Trachea - Time
    Scientists Look to Cure HIV With Gene Therapy - Fox News
    Programmable DNA Scissors Found for Bacterial Immune System - Science Daily

    9. Students Are Not Being Encouraged to Pursue Any Level of Self-Education


    You would think that in school, at least half of what a student reads would be books, essays and articles that he or she chooses to read based on his or her own unique, individual interests. But alas, most students have very little, if any freedom at all over the path of their own education. However, some do.

    In her most recent book, The Reading Zone, Nancie Atwell advocates English class reading workshops in which grade school, middle school and high school students are able to pick what books they want to read from the school library and read them both in-class and at home rather than being assigned specific books to read. While she's only applied this to fiction and literary non-fiction, her method has proven wildly successful not only in improving children's reading and writing levels but transforming children into passionate, lifelong readers. Here are a few passages from The Reading Zone:



    And I can personally testify for the effectiveness of Nancy Atwell's methods. At the beginning of my fifth grade at St. Raymond's Elementary School, I was a below-average student who spent the majority of his time playing video games and watching television. However, during my first week in Ms. Grassi's classroom I saw a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on a bookshelf in the classroom, started reading it in class, read it on the bus ride home, read it when I got home and stayed up until four-a-clock in the morning until I passed out with the book still in my hands. I believe I finished the rest of the book in about three or four days and read the other three books that had been published thus far in less than two weeks. I'm not sure how many books I read in fifth grade but in sixth grade we had reading journals. Students were required to read at least five books over the course of the school year. I read eighty-seven, all of them fantasy-fiction. In seventh grade, I was tested for ADHD because I wasn't paying attention in class. One of their tests showed that I was at a thirteenth-grade reading level and a twelfth-grade writing level. And what was the psychiatrist's diagnosis? I had ADHD. He wrote me a prescription for adderall. I'm not kidding.

    That being said, I believe that at least half the books students read should be informative non-fiction. For example, in a high school career research and analysis class, I would ask students to read at least five non-fiction books relevant to their career interests. For example, a student interested in entrepreneurship and business management might read:

    The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries



    He may also read books like:

    Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
    The Mind of the Market: How Biology and Psychology Shape Our Economic Lives by Michael Shermer
    Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School by Philip Delves Broughton
    The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman

    In a Public Policy Course, a student could choose to read:

    The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book) Teacher's Edition: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction - Jon Stewart
    It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom - Andrew P. Napolitano
    Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama - Bill O' Reilly
    Alternative Energy: Beyond Fossil Fuels - Dana Meachen Rau
    Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future - Robert Bryce

    In her Career Research and analysis class, a student interested in both medicine and psychology might read:

    The Future of Medicine by Stephen C. Schimpff
    The Innovator's Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care by Dr. Jerome H. Grossman
    On Becoming a Doctor: Everything You Need to Know about Medical School, Residency, Specialization, and Practice by Tania Heller
    Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

    Some people might protest, "but they won't understand everything in those books!" Exactly! I read plenty of books in high school filled with concepts I was unfamiliar with. The things I wasn't familiar with, I would simply look up on an online encyclopedia. (Of course, it would have been better had I access to the digital version of the Encyclopedia Britannica.) The things I still couldn't understand filled me with the desire to (Gasp!) read textbooks so that I'd have the prerequisite, foundational knowledge to better understand the concepts underlying all the exciting books I was reading. Books like:

    The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
    How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci by Michael Gelb
    Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle
    The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule by Michael Shermer
    Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson
    Truth in Virtue of Meaning - Russel
    Gillian
    Bad News: The Decline of Reporting by Tom Fenton
    The Great American Jobs Scam by Greg Leroy
    Myth, Lies and Downright Stupidity by John Stossel

    Of course, my only interests at the time were philosophy, psychology, politics and public policy — none of which directly offer me a career path I'd be interested in — but I have since expanded my interests to include business management, entrepreneurship and education.

    10. Students are Not Being Provided With the Chance to Study Math at Their Own Pace

    Solving a set of math problems is like solving a puzzle. One person might take two hours to solve a puzzle, another might take one and a half hours, another ten minutes. Why then, do twenty-five students in a classroom all have to cover math material at the same pace? Why do some students have to be bored in class while others have to feel incompetent because they need some extra time to cover certain material?

    As it stands now, the one-size-fits-all approach is the norm but there are already dozens of schools that are starting to breaking the mold:
    Just a nitpick, Psychiatrists ARE Physicians. They Have an M.D and have to do 1 year of Internal Medicine. I think you are thinking of Psychologist.

  15. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by tttppp View Post
    Privatize education and allow them to put school online. This would dramatically improve costs, value, free up time for students, and allow students to graduate sooner.
    Major universities are already doing that.
    "Corruptisima republica plurimae leges."

    ---- Tacitus

    I love von Mises and Emma Watson

  16. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingRobbStark View Post
    Major universities are already doing that.
    But they are not using the internet to reduce costs and create value. In many cases they are actually charging more for the online programs which defeats the purpose of them. Additionally they are still requiring people to take bullshit classes and waste peoples time. They are able to do this because schools are not privatized along with the licences for each of the professions which require certain amount of years of education.

  17. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lindsey View Post
    Schooling does not equal education.
    Yep.
    Last edited by Natural Citizen; 09-01-2012 at 08:31 PM.
    Freedom of speech means little without freedom to question

  18. #47
    Member opal's Avatar
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    I think you need to start earlier. Students really cannot tackle most of that list up there without learning first how to read actual words. Reading, vocabulary, writing and speaking need to be first. I am terrible with anything math, that I cannot see. Geometry was the only math class that ever sunk in to my brain. That teacher, taught math as a language - again, first learning the vocabulary of the language before trying to work with it's functions.

    The primary school, learning at your own pace, which allows for several ages of students to be taught together is what my daughter went through in first through fifth grade. I was not thrilled with her being a guinea pig for another social educational experiment, but as one of the parents that volunteered at this school three or more days per week, I could see both good and bad in the process. Leaders (even 8 year olds) could be pinpointed very early in a school year. Those kids were actually darn helpful in getting some of the other children interested in what was going on in a class room when the teachers were locked into lesson plans.

    I've kind of lost where I was going with that beyond ammending the above list to begin much earlier than highschool to fix things.

    *goes for more coffee*

  19. #48

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    I just wanted to say I really appreciate this. My wife is a teacher (public charter in a poor district near Cleveland) and I'm sending this to her and all of her teacher friends. Lots of interesting points in this entire thread actually.

    p.s. I've always been intrigued by the idea of boarding school options in poor areas. It's heartbreaking to meet/see children who are bright and want to learn, but their home environment is so f-d up that they basically have no hope of succeeding in life.

    Quote Originally Posted by BenjaminRosenzweig View Post
    Here's my second draft...


    10 Problems with American Education & How Schools Can Fix Them




    1. Too Much Emphasis on Literary Analysis, Not Enough Career Research and Analysis

    The typical four-year high school English curriculum consists almost entirely of studying fictional literature as a means by which to improve reading comprehension, improve writing ability and develop analytical thinking ability. While reading and analyzing literature is a critical part of a well-rounded education, it is overemphasized. Furthermore, this overemphasis within the high school English curriculum has failed to achieve its primary goal: inspiring a love of fine literature in its students. This particular issue will be addressed in a later section, but back to the matter at hand.

    I would replace the standard fiction-focused syllabus of a college bound or honors freshman English class with a Career Research and Analysis class in which students improve their reading comprehension, improve their writing ability and develop analytical thinking ability while learning about different career fields and job opportunities. Different career fields and job opportunities that students could study include:

    1. Engineering: Project Engineer, Civil Engineer, Structural Engineer, Environmental Engineer, Biomedical Engineer
    2. Health Care: Physician, Nurse, Physical Therapist, Physician Assistant
    3. Technology Sector: Software Architect, Systems Engineer, Software Engineer, IT Analyst
    4. Business Administration: Entrepreneur, CEO, CIO, CMO
    5. Finance & Accounting: Accountant, Actuary, Financial Adviser
    6. Psychology: Counselor, Psychiatrist, Forensic Psychologist, Cognitive Neuroscientist
    7. Natural Sciences: Biologist, Chemist, Physicist, Botanist, Virologist, Forensic Scientist
    8. Social Sciences: Anthropologist, Economist, Sociologist, Lawyer

    Over the course of six months, students would take tests and write essays regarding a variety of different career fields, job opportunities and educational pathways. The class would also include inviting guest speakers from every different career field to discuss their experiences in the industry, what is necessary to succeed in their industry, what it is like working in the industry and what level of education is necessary to get different types of jobs in said industry. These guest speakers — most of whom would be students' parents — would be asked to have a few talking points prepared for their presentation. Naturally, this presentation would then be followed by a question and answer period. The teacher would also incorporate some of the guest speaker's points into the next test. Ideally, at least one guest speaker would be brought in every other week and there would be at least one from every different career field.

    After 6 months of career and analysis, the class would begin 2 months of college research and analysis. Students would research different colleges, would compare and contrast them in their essays, learn about their different admission requirements and visit a few different local colleges. Former students who are now attending college, as well as a few professors, would be brought in as guest speakers.

    As a result of taking this course, students will be able to conduct the rest of their high school career with a sense of purpose. They will also have three more years to conduct further independent research, to reflect on their interests and to arrive at a final decision before they choose what college to attend and what subject they will major in. Similarly, I would like to see colleges replace most first semester freshman English courses with a Career Research and Analysis course.

    2. Students Are Not Asked to Study Current Events

    The typical High School Social Studies curriculum consists entirely of studying history. The question arises; why aren't students studying, analyzing and discussing both historical events and current events during their social studies classes? The whole point of studying history is that we apply it's lessons to contemporary issues. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat our past mistakes. However, high school students — and even the overwhelming majority of college students — are NEVER asked to compare and contrast current events with past events, current political issues with past political issues, current economic conditions with past economic conditions, current wars with past wars and so on. In other words, while the purpose of studying history is that we applies its lessons to contemporary issues, students are not being asked to do this; they are simply made to memorize and then regurgitate historical facts without ever putting them to practical use.

    "Practical application is the only mordant which will set things in the memory. Study without it is gymnastics, and not work, which alone will get intellectual bread." - James Russel Lowell

    Why do many students find history boring? Well, what causes something to be boring? Among other things, irrelevancy. Unless students are able to relate historical wisdom to something that can affect their lives in the world today, history is entirely irrelevant. It may contain a few interesting stories but without application, historical knowledge is nothing more than trivia.

    "Whatever study tends neither directly nor indirectly to make us better men and citizens is at best but a specious and ingenious sort of idleness; and the knowledge we acquire by it only a creditable kind of ignorance, nothing more." - 1st Viscount Bolingbroke, Henry St. John

    Students should never be asked to study history without simultaneously spending an equal amount of time studying and researching the modern world. Aspects of the modern world that students should be asked to research MUST include multiple opposing viewpoints regarding contemporary politics at the local, state and federal level. Otherwise, how are we to expect them to be informed voters by the time they turn eighteen? Students should also be asked to study opposing viewpoints regarding modern U.S. economic conditions, global economic conditions, public policy issues, foreign governments, terrorism, national security and so on.

    Some ideas for compare/contrast papers that students could write include:

    The Iraq War and the Vietnam War
    The War on Terror and the Cold War
    The United States and the Roman Republic
    The Great Recession and the Great Depression
    President Obama and Any Former President
    One's Current Governor and Any Former Governor
    The Advent of Wireless Electricity and the Advent of Wireless Internet

    3. Students are Not Studying Opposing Viewpoints

    As it stands today, there does not seem to be a single high school, college or university in the world that asks students to study opposing viewpoints on both contemporary and historical issues as an integral part of their social studies and social science programs. Rather, students are asked to simply regurgitate the biases of their textbooks, teachers and professors. This would be a perfect system for people living under a monarchy, in which citizens are to simply do as they are told, but as we live in a Republic, this makes absolutely no sense. Having students simply regurgitate what they are told not only biases students towards a rigid political ideology (whether conservative or liberal), but it is inherently boring and fails to prepare students for the real world.

    "The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is by hearing what can be said about it be persons of every variety of opinion and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by ever character of mind. No wise man has ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this." - John Stuart Mill

    "Difference of opinion leads to inquiry, and inquiry to truth." - Thomas Jefferson

    First, let's address high school and college history courses. While there are historical facts we can all agree on, every history textbook is, to some extent, politically biased. For example, most history textbooks paint Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a savior who helped Americans survive the Great Depression. However, seldom will you find any reference to the Depression of 1920 in which the immediate response was to cut the federal budget in half, reduce the national debt by one-third and slash taxes for all income levels. Why isn't this mentioned? In my opinion, it is because the economy recovered in eighteen months and what followed was the economic prosperity that defined the Roaring Twenties. For those who advocate huge increases in government spending during economic downturns, this makes absolutely no sense. So they skip over it. Meanwhile, Herbert Hoover's response to the Great Depression was not to avoid government intervention but to take it to an unprecedented level. Herbert Hoover’s response to the market crash of 1929 was was to increase federal spending by over 50% between 1929 and 1932, undertake huge public works projects and raise tariffs at an unprecedented rate with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff act, a piece of legislation Henry Ford told Harding was “economic stupidity” . Then, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected and increased government spending even more. In my opinion, this is why the Great Depression lasted ten years. (For more on this, check out FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression by Jim Powell.)

    But while I feel confident in my assessment, I would never want to indoctrinate students with my own personal political, economic and social viewpoints. Rather, high school and college students should be be allowed to study multiple opposing viewpoints, apply some critical thinking, evaluate the evidence, discuss the issue with their peers and come to their own evidence-based conclusions. Beginning in freshman year of high school, every student should learn how to identify their social studies textbook's point of view and begin studying contentious issues regarding U.S. History, World History and current events. Again, the Opposing Viewpoints series provides us with a good starting point. Opposing Viewpoints in American History Volumes I and II, Opposing Viewpoints in World History I and II as well as a number of other entries in the Opposing Viewpoints series can serve as vital resources in helping students pick issues to study and begin their research. However, students should not be restricted to only considering the arguments presented by the editors of the Opposing Viewpoints series; it is merely a good foundation and starting point for further research and analysis.

    "In our media-intensive culture it is not difficult to find differing opinions. Thousands of newspapers and magazines and dozens of radio and television talk shows resound with differing points of view. The difficulty lies in deciding which opinion to agree with and which 'experts' seem the most credible. The more inundated we become with differing opinions and claims, the more essential it is to hone critical reading and thinking skills to evaluate these ideas. Opposing Viewpoints books address this problem by directly by presenting stimulating debates that can be used to enhance and teach these skills. The varied opinions contained in each book examine many difference aspects of a single issue. While examining these conveniently editing opposing viewpoints, readers can develop critical thinking skills such as the ability to compare and contrast authors' credibility, facts, argumentation styles, use of persuasive techniques, and other stylistic tools. In short, the Opposing Viewpoints Series is an ideal way to attain the higher-level thinking and reading skills so essential in a culture of diverse and contradictory opinions." - Mitchell Young

    As for high school and college social science courses, whether the subject is economics, political science, global studies, sociology or social psychology, there is some level of political bias both in the textbooks and in the lectures. The consideration of opposing viewpoints should be integrated into all of these courses so that again, students can apply some critical thinking, thoroughly evaluate the evidence, discuss contentious issues with their peers and come to their own evidence-based — not ideology-based — conclusions.

    4. Students are Not Studying Public Policy

    Every high school and college in America should have a required course regarding opposing viewpoints on public policy. Rather than studying a textbook, students could be provided with books from the opposing viewpoints series, videos of formal debates and similar resources so that they could dedicate their time to studying, researching, writing about and discussing the issues that every American should have an informed opinion about. For example:

    1. The Middle East
    2. The War on Terrorism
    3. Gun Control
    4. Welfare
    5. Health Care
    6. Genetic Engineering
    7. Global Warming
    8. Civil Liberties
    9. Abortion
    10. Criminal Justice
    11. Government Spending
    12. Global Resources

    A course on public policy could be incorporated into any college curriculum. As part of a high school curriculum, I would make it the area of study in a Junior English Class. Thus:

    Freshman English: Career Research and Analysis
    Sophomore English: Literary Analysis
    Junior English: Public Policy
    Senior: Elective

    5. Art Classes are Suppressing Students' Creativity with Rigid Curricula

    One would think that in an art class, you would be able to dedicate your time to creative self-expression. If a student wants to learn how to paint portraits in art class, he or she could find a few books on the subject, agree on a set of projects with the teacher and then proceed to begin learning and perfecting his or her art work. If one week you feel like learning how to draw cars, you could pick up a book on it in the library and immediately start drawing cars. If you feel like painting a wedding scene, you can paint a wedding scene. If you want to paint something that represents the effect that your father's passing away had on you, you could spend some time figuring out how to represent it in a painting and then proceed to do so. But not so fast! In an art class you have to draw, paint, sculpt or graphically design what the teacher tells you to. If he or she wants everyone to draw flowers, you are all drawing flowers. If the teacher wants everyone painting landscapes this week, you are spending your week painting landscapes.

    But why? What successful artist spends their time drawing, painting, graphically designing or sculpting things they do not want to? What is art without passion? A complete waste of time. In art classes, every student should have a self-directed curriculum based upon their areas of interest, their passions and their personal objectives. If a student wants to draw comic books, for God's sake, let him draw comic books! Then grade him based solely upon whether his artistic ability is steadily improving over time. In such a class setting, the art teacher could dedicate their time helping students decide on what their projects will be from week-to-week, providing specific feedback on completed projects and giving help to students who specifically ask for it. Furthermore, students would be able to teach each other how to draw certain things or how to draw with a certain style. In this way, the students' self-directed learning would also have a very positive and rewarding social aspect. I mean honestly, who wouldn't have enjoyed teaching their high school or college crush how to paint or draw something?

    6. Students are Not Developing a Practical Life Philosophy


    Every high school student should graduate with a comprehensive life philosophy, ideally one based on continually improving themselves and the world around them, and have the practical knowledge necessary to lead a successful life. A life philosophy course would be an interdisciplinary course that would address such questions as:

    1. What is my ideal lifestyle?
    2. What are my ambitions, my dreams and my goals?
    3. What are my values?
    4. How does one overcome social conflict?
    5. How does one have a successful marriage?
    6. What are my ethical principles?
    7. How can I continually improve both myself and the world around me?

    When students address the questions, sources would include their own personal experiences, self-improvement literature, positive psychology, relationship psychology, the field of ethics, sociology and so on.

    For example, students might choose to read The 7 Habits by Stephen Covey:



    7. Education Majors are Not Learning From the Most Successful Teachers

    If you want to learn how to be great at doing something, what is the first thing you do? I would say it is to find a few people that are well-known for being absolutely amazing at doing it and rigorously study their methods and ideas. This applies whether we're talking about playing a particular sport, running a business, playing music, practicing medicine, performing surgery, parenting and yes, teaching. However, very few, if any education majors are asked to study the methods and ideas of the the best teachers in recent history; teachers like Marva Collins, Dr. Lorraine Monroe, Rafe Esquith and Jaime Escalante. All of these teachers have received widespread acclaim for their their ability to take under-performing students from impoverished and crime-ridden areas and transform them into lifelong honors students who go on to become highly successful doctors, engineers, civil rights lawyers, business owners, professors, teachers and so on.

    If you wish to see some of these teachers in action, go to Youtube and type in these keywords:

    1. Jaime Escalante
    2. Dr. Lorraine Monroe 60 minutes
    3. 2. Marva Collins 60 minutes

    What do all these teachers have in common? For one, they were more than just teachers! They were also leaders and marketers. As leaders, they totally and completely believed in every student's ability to succeed despite their surroundings and they communicated this belief to their students in sincere, charismatic and inspiring ways. Even though school officials, parents, other teachers and even some students tried to convince them otherwise, these teachers were unfazed and continued to communicate this belief to the point that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. As marketers, these teachers were all able to sell what they were teaching before they taught it. Students never had to ask, "why are we learning this?" These teachers were able to answer that question long before they started teaching the material. But unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of teachers never learn how to passionately and effectively communicate the value of what they are teaching to their students. Thus, we are currently a nation great at marketing consumer products but terrible at marketing the value of studying to our students. This is just one of the many important lessons that we can learn from some of the most successful teachers in recent history.

    So if education majors aren't learning from the proven methods of the most successful teachers in recent history, what are the learning? For the most part, they are being taught a series of unproven theories and cheap gimmicks with absolutely no real-world results to back them up. For example, there is a recent theory that student should never be asked to remember facts and take tests but rather should only be taught how to be "critical thinkers" . However, they fail to take into consideration that if you don not know what the facts are then you cannot separate them from opinions and then think critically about those opinions. For example, if a student does not learn about the agreed-upon facts of the Vietnam War, how can or she possibly decide whether it was an ill-advised war that needlessly cost tens of thousands of young Americans their lives or a strategic military action necessary to halt the spread of communism?

    8. Students are Not Studying Recent Developments in Science, Technology and Medicine

    What is the purpose of high school science courses? Is it so that the small-percentage of students that go on to pursue careers involving the application of physics, chemistry or biology can get a head start on their studies? That would be quite a tremendous waste of time and energy for the rest of students now would it not? I would say the purpose of the high school science curriculum should be that every student is better able to understand the implications of recent developments in science, technology and medicine. Progress in these closely-related areas is radically transforming the nature of everyone's existence; thus studying them is fascinating and inherently valuable regardless of what career path one chooses.

    However, high school students — and indeed, the overwhelming majority of college students — are rarely, if ever, asked to study recent developments in science and technology. Furthermore, very few, if any students are asked to regularly apply what they've learned in their textbooks to understanding recent developments in science and technology. I would dedicate the entire first month of a high school course in biology to just studying recent developments in science, technology and medicine that are directly related to biology. After peaking their interest in the subject of biology, I would regularly ask students to apply what they're learning in their textbook to better understand recent scientific developments. Some new stories I might cover include:

    Lab-Made Organ Implanted For First Time - CNN
    New Hope May Lie In Lab-Created Heart - CNN
    Cancer Patient Gets World’s First Artificial Trachea - Time
    Scientists Look to Cure HIV With Gene Therapy - Fox News
    Programmable DNA Scissors Found for Bacterial Immune System - Science Daily

    9. Students Are Not Being Encouraged to Pursue Any Level of Self-Education


    You would think that in school, at least half of what a student reads would be books, essays and articles that he or she chooses to read based on his or her own unique, individual interests. But alas, most students have very little, if any freedom at all over the path of their own education. However, some do.

    In her most recent book, The Reading Zone, Nancie Atwell advocates English class reading workshops in which grade school, middle school and high school students are able to pick what books they want to read from the school library and read them both in-class and at home rather than being assigned specific books to read. While she's only applied this to fiction and literary non-fiction, her method has proven wildly successful not only in improving children's reading and writing levels but transforming children into passionate, lifelong readers. Here are a few passages from The Reading Zone:



    And I can personally testify for the effectiveness of Nancy Atwell's methods. At the beginning of my fifth grade at St. Raymond's Elementary School, I was a below-average student who spent the majority of his time playing video games and watching television. However, during my first week in Ms. Grassi's classroom I saw a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on a bookshelf in the classroom, started reading it in class, read it on the bus ride home, read it when I got home and stayed up until four-a-clock in the morning until I passed out with the book still in my hands. I believe I finished the rest of the book in about three or four days and read the other three books that had been published thus far in less than two weeks. I'm not sure how many books I read in fifth grade but in sixth grade we had reading journals. Students were required to read at least five books over the course of the school year. I read eighty-seven, all of them fantasy-fiction. In seventh grade, I was tested for ADHD because I wasn't paying attention in class. One of their tests showed that I was at a thirteenth-grade reading level and a twelfth-grade writing level. And what was the psychiatrist's diagnosis? I had ADHD. He wrote me a prescription for adderall. I'm not kidding.

    That being said, I believe that at least half the books students read should be informative non-fiction. For example, in a high school career research and analysis class, I would ask students to read at least five non-fiction books relevant to their career interests. For example, a student interested in entrepreneurship and business management might read:

    The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries



    He may also read books like:

    Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
    The Mind of the Market: How Biology and Psychology Shape Our Economic Lives by Michael Shermer
    Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School by Philip Delves Broughton
    The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman

    In a Public Policy Course, a student could choose to read:

    The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book) Teacher's Edition: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction - Jon Stewart
    It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom - Andrew P. Napolitano
    Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama - Bill O' Reilly
    Alternative Energy: Beyond Fossil Fuels - Dana Meachen Rau
    Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future - Robert Bryce

    In her Career Research and analysis class, a student interested in both medicine and psychology might read:

    The Future of Medicine by Stephen C. Schimpff
    The Innovator's Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care by Dr. Jerome H. Grossman
    On Becoming a Doctor: Everything You Need to Know about Medical School, Residency, Specialization, and Practice by Tania Heller
    Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

    Some people might protest, "but they won't understand everything in those books!" Exactly! I read plenty of books in high school filled with concepts I was unfamiliar with. The things I wasn't familiar with, I would simply look up on an online encyclopedia. (Of course, it would have been better had I access to the digital version of the Encyclopedia Britannica.) The things I still couldn't understand filled me with the desire to (Gasp!) read textbooks so that I'd have the prerequisite, foundational knowledge to better understand the concepts underlying all the exciting books I was reading. Books like:

    The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
    How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci by Michael Gelb
    Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle
    The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule by Michael Shermer
    Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson
    Truth in Virtue of Meaning - Russel
    Gillian
    Bad News: The Decline of Reporting by Tom Fenton
    The Great American Jobs Scam by Greg Leroy
    Myth, Lies and Downright Stupidity by John Stossel

    Of course, my only interests at the time were philosophy, psychology, politics and public policy — none of which directly offer me a career path I'd be interested in — but I have since expanded my interests to include business management, entrepreneurship and education.

    10. Students are Not Being Provided With the Chance to Study Math at Their Own Pace

    Solving a set of math problems is like solving a puzzle. One person might take two hours to solve a puzzle, another might take one and a half hours, another ten minutes. Why then, do twenty-five students in a classroom all have to cover math material at the same pace? Why do some students have to be bored in class while others have to feel incompetent because they need some extra time to cover certain material?

    As it stands now, the one-size-fits-all approach is the norm but there are already dozens of schools that are starting to breaking the mold:

  20. #49

    Default

    Hmmm, kind of sounds.... well... tyrannical.
    Best of luck in life.

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