Every schoolchild who’s ever squirmed in his seat, anxious for recess to arrive, can sympathize with students in Chicago. This year, many public schools in that city are scheduled to have recess for the first time in three decades. Chicago’s long recess drought isn’t unusual. Even before No Child Left Behind, recess was an endangered species. Since NCLB, every minute of the school day has been scrutinized for its instructional value—and recess, a break from instruction, often didn’t survive the scrutiny. It was, by definition, a waste of time.
Um. No recess for 30 years. It explains so much.
Play is needed to just allow the brain to assimilate the morning lessons.
Nothing is withheld from us which we have conceived to do.
Do things that have never been done.
A lot of people are spending a lot of effort to improve schools, but like trying to make cars more fuel efficient we’ve long ago reached the point of diminishing returns. Schools are about as good as they can get.
What has the auto industry done, they’ve changed engines. They’re using electric motors, or hybrid, or natural gas.
If you want schools to produce something different, do you think we should change engines?
We have to pick pretty much all the qualities we want in people we want to work with and for
Okay it isn’t quite that easy but that is what happens. It is easier for the school system if the students are obedient. If they learn something that’s a bonus really.
But you run into the candle problem.
The education system worked fine until the 1970′s when most of the mechanical jobs left these shores in the name of cost cutting. Now there is hardly any job that doesn’t require at least a dash of creative thought.
We need creativity more then ever, but if you choose to be a creative person what happens?
You are ridiculed unless you are already successful.
If you try to be an arts major you get pigeon holed into the loner emo group, if you hit the other side of the creative coin and go for science, or programming you’re slammed into the no-social life geek group.
In kindergarden they give you a big box of crayons and you can pretty much go to town, though soon you have to stay within the lines and be conventional. A family was looking for a new daycare for their little girl. They would visit and the little girl would ask for paper and crayons, and would draw a green sun, blue trees and yellow grass. They choose the one where the teachers complimented her on how creative the drawing was.
When you go into middle school they take away your crayons and give you textbooks, don’t wait until midlife to take back your crayons.
At one engineer job we took turns on fielding technical calls, for a company that made police radar and in-cruiser video systems and traffic control devices. One day a sales rep called in asking for a Diversity Antenna.
That confused me.
There is a technique called Antenna Diversity, cell phone towers use. You’ve seen cell phone towers they generally have sets of three antennas facing the same way, and in very simple terms one is on channel A, one is one channel B and the third on channel C. This technique lets more then one cell phone near each other connect to the same tower.
It is much like going to any fast food restaurant and asking for a Fry Deep. Which almost sounds like a technique, but is still something they can’t serve you because it isn’t a product.
So I asked the obvious question, “You want what?” He wants a diversity antenna, so I flip through the catalog just to make sure, maybe there was a product in there called a diversity antenna, but no. ”Sorry, I don’t see that in the catalog.”
“I know that that’s why I called you guys.”
“Smart move, what is it you are trying to do?” Trying a different tact, we had enough specialized accessories that we probably had something that would cover what he needed, if I could just figure that out.
“I’m trying to diversify the frequency spreading.” I actually look at the phone wondering if this guy was drunk or something, because he used words that related to radio stuff but in a way that made it sound like gibberish. Some radios use frequency spreading for various reasons, the military use that and frequency hopping so it is hard to eavesdrop on their communications. But those radios are really expensive and none of our radios can do that, we use a simple radio that the cop wears that we link to the video system so we can record what happens when the cop is outside of the cruiser and talking to the driver in the car.
I really want to help this guy and make the sale but he kept just jumping into jargon and not telling me what the client was trying to actually do.
“What product are you talking about here?” The in-cruiser video product. Good, I was worried that it might be for the road sign or something insane like that.
“And what exactly is the client trying to accomplish here?” He proceeds to go off the deep end telling me how he isn’t an engineer, how he’s been doing this for 10 years and never got such bad support, how he could design it himself, because he got an engineering degree, finally he screams at me that the customer just wants better range from the radio!
“Oh, he wants the external antenna, part #####. Shall I order one up for you?”
What is school for?
It’s a good question and one that deserves a thoughtful answer. I am going to take a different tact than he does.
We homeschooled our child until medical issued forced us to go to the public school system. When we announced that we were going to homeschool, universally the first question from family and friends was:
“What about her socialization?”
Isn’t it interesting that the question isn’t something like: Do you really think your qualified? because the answer, I can’t do much worse then schools are doing, is too easy to agree with.
I have to hand it to whoever came up with that, because every homeschooler has faced that question a lot. It’s one of the most powerful memes out there.
The obvious answer to the the question, “What is school for?” is to socialize our children.
But what does that mean to be socialized? It means that they conform. That they fit the mold, that they be just another cog in the machine because we’ll tell you you’re a special little snowflake, but we will melt you and reform you into an ice crystal that we can use.
Our children are three-dimentional creatures of wonder. Yet in school we are tracked, and pidgeon-holed and typecast. You are a square geek, or an athletic star, or an artistic oval or a well-rounded circle. And then you find you can’t explore to see what your real shape is, because pushing the edges just isn’t done.
Sorry, that’s wrong.
You shouldn’t have to wait until your mid-life to dust off your dreams and find out who you really are.
We need our children to learn how to operate in the Connection Age.
Yet we are using a school calendar from the Agricultural Age, using teaching techniques from the Industrial Age, using technology from the Information Age.
We have a problem, don’t we?
Schools are factories churning out workers for factories and jobs that no longer exist. Schools aren’t even skating to where the puck is, but where it was a few plays ago.
The worst thing is that teachers know this. Almost all of the ones we have met are trying to give the best learning experience possible to their students.
Yet we have reading scores flat lining for decades despite massive increases in spending.
Schools are always asking for more money and until recently have gotten it. Yet there never seems to be a year without budget cuts. Where does the money go? Does it matter?
I don’t think it does. Lots of effort has gone into improving schools and they have gotten very good at what they do.
The real question is what is it that school do best?
Seth wants a provocation well I’m going to comment on a bunch of things, through this whole book.
Does school work? That’s the real question.
The next question is important too, What does school do?
And finally what do I want out of school for my children?
I think school is very good at what it does. We are spending lots of money to try and make it better at what it does but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.
But what does school do? It indoctrinates children really well, put on your seat belt, recycle, submit to authority, things like that.
What it doesn’t do so well is teach reading, math, problem solving and the like. How many people do you know that boast that they suck at math, that never talk about a book they’ve read or can understand why landing on Mars is so hard.
I want my child to be able to find her talents and hone them while young.
A few months ago Seth Godin released Stop Stealing Dreams a provocation about the current US school system.
I am going to turn it into an audiobook as part of my demo reel, but also to figure out what I feel about the school system.
It’s broken, or rather it is producing what it is supposed to be producing but that isn’t so useful anymore. It’s an 18th Century solution that has been surpassed by the 21st Century’s needs.