I have a very long–term interest in education.
As I look at the current public education “system” in the US, I can see a variety of major problems.
The biggest problem, endemic of any system built around the premise that the only people who should be together all day long should all be “similar”. Somewhere along the way, we decided it would be a Good Idea(tm) to split children into monocultures of more-or-less indentically-aged groups called “grades”, and then batch them into groups of 20-30 and herd them through a variety of subjects every day.
We have lost the concept of learning as exemplified throughout history in the “apprentice” or “disciple” model.
Before the monoculturification of schooling, whole (but small) groups of children were taught together – it’s how my dad’s uncle was taught. From 1st (or K) through 12th all in one room. At any given moment, all ages were either being reminded of earlier work, or hearing about later work, or doing their own work.
This model is still used by the large segment of the population that homeschools (presuming, of course, they have more than one child).
What if we re-adopted this approach to school in the public system? What if, instead of having schools which housed hundreds of students in just a couple grades, we had schools in every neighborhood that had a few dozen students that represent all the grades of the community?
What if schools became “migratory” – in the sense that as the demographics of the community change, the location of the school ‘building’ can shift. Perhaps, for example, in a suburban community the school could be usage of a development community center – but if and when the community has fewer or no children, the school locale could be removed or shifted to a new young demographic area.
Some of the myriad benefits I can envision in such a scenario:
- reduced overhead for any given school in terms of hiring, maintenance, etc
- reduced school board / district overhead – elimination of now-unneeded positions
- increased teacher-to-student engagement
- lower student-to-teacher ratios
- increased student retention as they are continually being reminded of old concepts
- teachers becoming more generalized, rather than [potentially] myopic in their teaching
- team teaching – cutting across disciplines and seeing an integrated view of the world
- improved teaching flexibility
- reduced union strength
- improved connections between teachers and the community they serve
- more well-rounded graduates
- reduced / eliminated busing
- decreased prevalence of bullying
- increased likelihood of teachers living near/in the communities they serve
Some of the antibenefits I could envision:
- loss of school sporting teams
- forced generalization of teachers
- more complex IT support infrastructure (if managed by a central authority such as the board or district)
I eagerly anticipate your feedback – what do you think?
Comments on “redecentralizing school”
What if instead of grouping by age, we grouped by topic/level – like we do in colleges? You’d have English 1, 2, etc. We can operate on the premise that it takes 1 semester/1 year (depending on your school’s scheduling model), so there’s still a sense of where you’re “supposed” to be, but not being up to snuff in one subject doesn’t hold you back for everything else (it also ends the impetus for social promotion). You could also choose the order in which you cover “required” subjects (like in college, you could theoretically put off your required low-level English classes for senior year to focus on subjects in your major). The important thing is that people are in a setting where the material is at the level that’s appropriate for you, regardless of age, or skill level in other subjects.
It also opens the ability for schools and/or students to “specialize” if they so choose. I knew in high school I was never going to be in 1 of the “creative” disciplines, so after learning how to write research papers and (at best) B-level grammar, pretty much all English did for me was make me read a bunch of stuff I didn’t like, when I could have been taking more math/science/computer courses to give myself a head start on things I knew I would be focusing on later in life. Why should anymore spend more time than they absolutely need to on stuff that they’re going to promptly forget/ignore because it loses relevancy? General education, beyond basic knowledge, really just wastes people’s time and burns them out to the idea of studying anything new.
There’s a take I hadn’t thought of – but would nominally akin to schools like NCSSM (though not completely)
Something like that, but for any focus that a community can support the interest levels for. Theoretically, you could possibly have people attend different courses at different schools if they really wanted to, but that would probably be a tiny minority of people.
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