Spending More Time in School Isn’t the Answer

Yesterday I wrote about how I’m optimistic about the future because the generation coming up has just many revolutionary strengths. But I also hit on the downside to these strengths, their education is weaker in comparison to their global counterparts. I claim it isn’t the students that are doing poorly, they simply excel at subjects that are foreign to their adult counterparts. And this is what is bothersome to me.

For instance, yesterday on CNN.com was a piece about Arne Duncan. He is the new Secretary of Education. To him, the reason the US is falling behind in education is because other nations stay in school year round and dedicate more time of their day to schooling. To compete he wants the US to replicate this model. Kids aren’t happy because they lose their summer. I’m not happy because it couldn’t be more wrong.

Spending more time in school is a fine solution if these assumptions are true: teachers are always effective, the students are engaged, memorization is all that is needed, and the summer doesn’t have its own educational growth benefits.

The idea that it is a quantity issue is lazy.

I would like to see a combination of efforts to improve the teaching profession, especially in the face of today’s hyper connected kid, an emphasis on applying the ideas to real world issues, and stories and experience. Think about it. Teachers today teach to a test and that is too bad. My best teachers taught me how to think. Kids sitting at a desk all day long have no idea what they are learning has anything to do with anything. Instead they should have entire classes where they learn a principle and take it all the way through some sort of development. It could be engineering and a car engine or it could be calculus and a growth model for microfinance in central Africa. Finally, it is important for students to understand stories. It should be a combination of their own as well as the classics. The nuances of story telling and the personal development it creates is very valuable. This is what summers are for. Schools need to be tied into the happenings of summer because there are camps, vacations, fireworks, concerts, forts, and sports. Each should not be forgotten.

I believe a focus on these areas will result in greater benefits than what is being proposed.


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