Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ravitch on Education

My comments on Econtalk blog
The primary problem of education has to do with industrial organization of the school system. The system where teacher "broadcasts" to a passive listening students is outdated. It is interesting that founders of United States such as Jefferson, Washington did not go to school. They had tutors; in this system teaching is one-to-one, adapted to student's needs, at their learning pace. Our "one size fits all" strategy assumes all children are the same, learn the same, act the same. Grading system is part of this broken system. By the way, in earlier times with tutoring, it was a rare occurence that a kid was "unteachable". You either passed, or failed -- and almost all kids passed. Unfortunately today, a lot of kids are in this limbo state between pass and fail -- who are "average", hence it is apparent there is something wrong with our "grading" system.

But this decay is not limited to education; we see it everywhere when a task is bureucratized, industrialized, when "processing" mentality takes over, "assembly line" quantity over quality thinking reigns. Collapse of government organizations during Katrina is but one example, failures in managing health care, economy are others. We will continue to suffer through organizational chaos until the system is revamped.

Interestingly, we have the means of broadcasting one quality teacher to millions, or billions. This new thing is called the Internet; through this media and smart customizable software, a quality teacher can reach all potential students. All we need is a content management infrastructure (de-facto collection of software tools, standards of communication, publishing of educational material) and the rest will follow.

Instead of classrooms, and schools, we also need to encourage construction of living / learning / lounge "areas", where kids can be watched while their parents are at work (not crammed in classrooms), in the meantime learn what they need to complete a project, play when they want, can watch ad-hoc lectures by, and consult to grown-ups as they need.

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