How to Fix Modern Education

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

– Mark Twain

“The purpose of Compulsory Education is to deprive the common people of their commonsense.”

– G.K. Chesterton

“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of education have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.”

– Albert Einstein

My Background:

20 years of schooling

6 years of teaching (and counting)

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The Problem with School:

I consider education to be paramount for solving problems, from the personal to the global level. One significant problem is that our schools haven’t changed much since the industrial revolution in the 1700-1800’s, whereas our society, technology, medicine, and job market has changed dramatically. This and other problems with many schools are explained more adequately a more experienced Teacher: John Taylor Gatto, in his writings. His article entitled, “Against School” influenced me greatly when I first read it 20 years ago. I highly recommend reading all of it here, but here’s a taste:

Once you understand the logic behind modern schooling, its tricks and traps are fairly easy to avoid. School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently. Well-schooled kids have a low threshold for boredom; help your own to develop an inner life so that they’ll never be bored. Urge them to take on the serious material, the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology – all the stuff schoolteachers know well enough to avoid. Challenge your kids with plenty of solitude so that they can learn to enjoy their own company, to conduct inner dialogues. Well-schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone, and they seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired and quickly abandoned. Your children should have a more meaningful life, and they can.

– John Taylor Gatto

My Teaching Philosophy:

As a teacher, it is my responsibility to grow and adapt to meet each student’s needs and preferred learning style. I must ensure the curriculum I teach helps students develop skills and knowledge to contribute positively to society as a whole. My goal is to help them find meaning and purpose, which I prioritize over success and happiness (both of which can be fleeting and compromise only a small part of the many wonders of human experience).

There is a more recent article, technically an award speech, that the late John Taylor Gatto gave and filled with even more wisdom. I will provide the link to the entire speech transcript here as well as one more quote below.

Our school crisis is a reflection of this greater social crisis. We seem to have lost our identity. Children and old people are penned up and locked away from the business of the world to a degree without precedent – nobody talks to them anymore and without children and old people mixing in daily life a community has no future and no past, only a continuous present. In fact, the name “community” hardly applies to the way we interact with each other. We live in networks, not communities, and everyone I know is lonely because of that.

We’ve got to give kids independent time right away because that is the key to self-knowledge, and we must re-involve them with the real world as fast as possible so that the independent time can be spent on something other than more abstraction… Independent study, community service, adventures in experience, large doses of privacy and solitude, a thousand different apprenticeships, the one day variety or longer – these are all powerful, cheap, and effective ways to start a real reform of schooling… There is no shortage of real problems in the city. Kids can be asked to help solve them in exchange for the respect and attention of the total adult world. Good for kids, good for all the rest of us.

– John Taylor Gatto

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