Hey Everyone! My name is Sarah Evans and I am a sociology major. One of my favorite classes I have taken hear at BYU was Sociology of Education. In this class we cleaned about the history of public education, specifically in the United States, and how the way we have though about knowlwedge and education has drastically impacted out current public education system. It is my belief, along with many others, that our current system needs a do over! We need to stop compartmentalizing students and subjects, and go back to conversing one with another! we need to use a new type of communication to solve the educational issues we have now, to improve the educational opportunities for future students.
Let's start with the issue at hand. The United States currently spends over $154 billion on public education a year. This includes meal plans, head start programs, classroom fundings, and student loans. Yet, with all that money being dumped into public education, people are still unsatisfied. In a recent Gallop Poll, only 17% of parents were "completely satisfied" with their oldest child's educational situation. This is a problem!
But what is the problem exactly? I would argue that it is not the money being dumped in. the problem is more fundamental than that, it's in how the educational system is being operated. To see how it has developed let's go back through history and look at public education during it's developmental stages.
Before the 1500s, public education was non-existent in the United States. Children were taught at home (if they were even taught) by their parents. Education was reserved for the elites. Martin Luther however advocated that education should be made available to all. So, he converted monasteries into school building and used catechisms (teachings from the Bible) as his main curriculum
Then came the Enlightenment age of reason and intellect! To me, this is the highlight of our educational system. Class sizes were still small, so students and teachers could engage in dialogue one with another. In fact, there were no letter grades or report cards (this started in the 1900s). Rather, students were passed or failed based on their ability to articulate knowledge in a discussion. Communication was key!
Then along came the Industrial Revolution. This freed children from working at home or in the fields and as a result brought tons of new students into the classroom. Now this sounds good, and it is! but it was handled rather poorly by the 1900s administrators and school boards.
In order to accommodate the new students, schools took on factory like conditions. pushing students through in batches, assigning them a letter grade, and doing all this by means of the dreaded standardized test. These tests became everything to both teacher and student. In the process, we lost the critical dialogue and communication that took place in Enlightenment schools.
So where does that leave us today? Children go through school having their heads filled with all the important information they will need later in life. The information is predetermined and simply dumped into their brains long enough for them to regurgitate it on a test. The main point: there is no thinking or communicating involved.
So, what are experts on education saying about this? To find out, I turned to several of Ken Robinson's TED Talks on modern public education and the reform it desperately needs.
What's his solution? To go back and engage in conversation! Conversation between student and teacher, teacher and other teachers, teachers and parents, students and other students. All of these conversations need to fill the classroom. We need to be thinking and talking about what we're learning. We need to realize it's ok to deviate from the predetermined curriculum. and lastly, we need to place as much value on the arts and other 'extracurriculars" as we do math and science.
But why? why does this all matter? Because, as Ken Robinson pointed out, we won't see the future, but our kids will! If we keep training them like we were trained, the future will remain the same. For a brighter future we need brighter minds.