Education: Fixing a Broken System

Every morning I put my son on a bus literally across the street (talk about poor use of resources!) and a little piece of me dies.  The experience he has each and every day destroys his creativity, his natural curiosity, his imagination, his self-confidence, his individualism.  Need I go on?

Deliver Children to Their Educational DoomOur education system is broken.  I’m not one of those who gets on a soapbox and blames others.  I don’t care whose fault it is.  No Child Left Behind.  Common Core.  The list of people and programs who have contributed is endless.  Including every parent who never spoke up.  I can’t stay silent any longer.  The system needs an overhaul.

Education as a Process

I view everything as a process.  Including any educational system, or any component within the educational system.  And any process can be split into smaller (more manageable!) parts.  With the educational system, I’m looking at teachers, administrators, students, and resources as the big building blocks.

Teachers

Teachers are the foundation of education.  They should be the co-creators, the facilitators, the guides, the mentors.  They make it happen.  They have been relegated to delivering packaged content, to helping aggregate big data, to creating robots.  It really is depressing.  Just as students do, teachers need the freedom to design and create.

educators

Create opportunities for students to love learning.  Create content delivery systems based on individual needs and capabilities.   Create a community where parents send their children to blossom, not to be crushed.  Teachers want this.  If they don’t, they’re just perpetuating the destruction of our youth.

Administrators

In any process are gatekeepers.  In education, the gatekeepers are administrators.  They need to protect our school communities like they would their own children.  Not only keep them safe, but enable them, empower them, mentor them, encourage them to fail.  They need to encourage teachers to create, encourage students to experiment.  They need to enable teachers to innovate and take calculated risks, enable students to enjoy education and find their natural love of learning.  Their job is to champion and permit the transition from standardized factories to individualized laboratories.   This comes from creating cultures of student-driven learning and of curiosity and of experimentation and of fun.

Students

Students are the heart and soul of education.  Although the heart barely beats, and the soul is certainly shattered.  Students need to regain their voice.  This means taking back control.  Education is their experience.  It is meant to help them grow, to prepare them for an uncertain future, to provide a safe place for them to experiment intellectually, socially, spiritually, athletically.

students

Education cannot happen without students.  Transforming our education system can happen most effectively by students believing their voice matters, building a collective voice, and reclaiming their ownership of the educational process.  Students need to be able to make things.  To code programs.  Education needs to be learning by doing.  Most importantly, education should allow and energize students to learn to learn.  Learn how to ask questions, and how to answer questions.

Resources

Resources are the least important of these building blocks.  The resources that we typically think of are so irrelevant.  Buildings that decay.  Desks that confine.  Books that are outdated.  Resources students need are easily accessible in today’s world.  Education resources should include those that allow students to self-organize, to engage, to be curious, to be motivated by their peers, to collaborate.  A computer, tablet, or some device that gets them connected.  Internet access.  Writing materials.

The New Education System

Teachers need to create.

Administrators need to protect.

Students need to love learning.

Resources are already there.

Everyone involved in education should have fun.  If you touch or are affected by education, are you having fun?  I mean really having fun?  I doubt it.  Let’s create the future of learning.  How?  Put entrepreneurs in charge.  They can transform cities.  They can transform communities.  They can build ecosystems.  They can certainly redesign education – because they are lifelong learners at their core, and they engage in learning more effectively than anyone else.  They have to.  Let’s give them education to rebuild the broken system.

4 thoughts on “Education: Fixing a Broken System

  1. Hi Doan… Why did you leave parents out? We have to make sure our children are prepared and ready. We have to be held accountable for the education system as well.

    1. Bernadette – great point. I didn’t mention this, but I was only looking inside the system. Another post I was thinking of following it up with are folks on the outside (which I consider parents to be). This is just more ammo I need to write that post about parents and community – which are just as critical. Thank you.

      1. Bridgette: I agree that parents should have a part in all of this. But parental inclusion is a double-edged sword. Parents are not a monolithic group. Administrators have a responsibility to protect educator creativity from the pitch-fork carrying mob of the day. They also need to ensure that learning objectives are based on up-to-date research rather than on what the market will bear. I have serious reservations about market-driven public education.

        On the other hand, most of my experience has been with teachers and administrators who were so well insulated from parents that they felt no need to update their knowledge or approach to teaching or classroom management even in the face of some pretty distressing student outcomes.

        It will definitely be a fine line to walk. On the one hand, I can think of my local high school’s drama teacher who has a terrible time finding plays that she can do given the extreme censorship by various factions. On the other hand, just yesterday, I read about a public school district in Louisiana that has no trouble at all with a science teacher who teaches that the world is 6,000 years old and who openly humiliates a Buddhist student for his ignorance of Christian teaching and for believing in a stupid religion. I’m pretty sure that the level of public accountability that I would like to see is somewhere between these two extremes. But even I would have trouble telling you where it is.

        1. Maureen – yes, it is a very fine line to walk when it comes to parents. I equate this to the situation most educators deal with when it comes to students and grades. One way I found to eliminate that problem is to let the students grade themselves. Give them the ownership. So, one thought I have is to somehow give ownership (partially) back to the parents. That way they are more bought in, they feel heard, etc.

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