Friday, October 30, 2009

Thinking Outside of the Box

Posted to math-teach @ Math Forum, hyperlinks added.

> From U.S. Department of Education: See

When I read this, I get a picture of traditional classrooms filled with rows and columns, teacher up front, USA flag in the corner, chalk board... we've all seen the movie, maybe starred in it too.

It's not like all that is going away, but we have lots of other options for educating, including stitching together programs where kids do a lot more work on their home computers, watch more videos, take tests at testing centers, visit companies and government institutions for mini-courses for credit, hold internships and apprentice-ships etc.

Issuing a national student card or simply having local authorities do that, and then creating opportunities that register for credit, ala one's transcript, is the way to go, more like Facebook but specific to building one's academic portfolio, showing off community service work, time at a math lab learning some vector graphics or whatever.

It's not gonna be that organized overnight, but let's take advantage of what home schooling families have pioneered. It's not all about "seat time" in these few factory-looking buildings scattered around town. Keep using those, but use actual houses for foreign exchange program, film some of your cooking shows in actual kitchens (many homes have nice ones) and fund families accordingly. Let the parents get in on the act, as they need training as well, need food and shelter as a part of the deal (not just more debt in exchange for deferred gratification).

Insisting that the K-12 lifestyle simply stick in the same ruts that it's been in since the 1920s and before shows a lack of imagination. Likewise teachers should have more options, such as a national program more like TSA that keeps them moving around, pinch hitting on teams, if that's the lifestyle they choose. It's less about paying the big bucks than developing lifestyles with the perks all built in. Have teachers in caravans, dispatched to conferences and workshops, more like the traveling circus model. Coordinate local projects. It's a lot like development in the 3rd world, except there's not really a 3rd world any more, just the real one and the cyber one (first and second).

A lot of people reading this are gonna think I'm crazy to suggest any of this, but then think of the military, our vast socialized system of pooled assets, government funded and ostensibly about providing training and equipment (fun, travel and adventure as the recruiters used to advertise). Any country that is able to run that many young people through a government program on that scale, should be able to provide similar opportunities for civilians -- unless of course the plan is to keep civilians in squalor such that military service is their only realistic option, in service of imperial goals.

Just don't whine about how we have no resources to serve students with better opportunities on the one hand, while squandering billions to warehouse hundreds of thousands around the world, supplied with a vast inventory of high tech toys, including entire floating cities (aka aircraft carriers). I realize it's maybe not politically correct to link these two sectors, but to the rest of the world it seems obvious that the USA could do OK for itself, if it just stopped imagining itself as some kind of world conqueror on steroids. Even students see the logic in that position.

I think if it's just a matter of recruiting vast numbers of teachers to live like the boomers, supporting public schools as we know them, then it's not gonna work, that's pretty much a guarantee.

Too many kids are eager to get out of those hell holes, would never voluntarily go back to support them. Boomer-senior culture is not one to emulate, but to transcend, the sooner the better. All boomers know how to do is whine about their crappy health care system and invade foreign countries yes? Whatever they advise you to do, do something else, would be my advice (yes, I'm a boomer, so there's some irony here).