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Do We Really WANT to Educate Our Children?
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

An interesting video about changing the paradigm of our educational system caused me to think about whether we really want to educate our children. “Of course we do!” I can imagine everyone responding. And I certainly believe that people want their children to obtain a college degree so they can get a job, but do we, as a society, really want to EDUCATE our children? Why is it that some of the most successful people today are college drop-outs (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg)?

Why is it that we know so much more about how people learn and yet we continue to teach children in archaic ways? Do we need to medicate our children so they fit this educational system or should we fit the system to the children? As the video indicates, why are children divided into classes according to age, for instance? Does that make sense? Shouldn't they be divided according to level of knowledge or ability in a particular subject? Why should they proceed at the same rate? Doesn't this lead to boredom both for those who are capable of learning more quickly as well as those who are confused and left behind? We wouldn't need enrichment programs or special needs programs if the system was designed to meet the needs of each child. Instead, our answer has been to medicate and single out children who don't fit the system.

education symbol
We have the knowledge and the ability to educate children in more effective ways. For instance, I went to a high school that allowed us to proceed at our own pace. We received learning packets with our assignments and when we had completed them we took a test to indicate whether we were ready for the next packet. Our teachers were primarily engaged individually or in small groups with students. Everyone learned. And our education wasn't just in class but in the community. Graduating from my high school meant that a student had actually been educated to think and to be involved in the community.

When I ask if we want to educate our children, I mean that true education comes with risks. First, it requires more effort from the system, the teachers, the parents, and the students. The status quo is always easier than change. Second, true education requires evaluating the student, not the system, so that the student's needs can be met, not so the school gets funding. Finally, an educated society means one that thinks, one that evaluates. Being educated doesn't mean graduating from college, it means the ability to think and evaluate information effectively. An educated society does not easily accept what it is spoon-fed. Instead, it questions and evaluates the answers.

Some people might argue the cost of an educational system focused on the needs of each student would be prohibitive. However, the per student cost of a public high school education paid by the taxpayers in my state is actually more than the tuition currently charged by the high school I attended. The problem is not the cost of such an education but the shift in thinking required by everyone involved in the educational system (administrators, teachers, parents, students, taxpayers). A shift in thinking is change and people are uncomfortable with change.

curved line