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Goran Kimovski

Senior Technology Consultant, OperatingDev.com

TEDCRED 500+

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What is the true value (if any) of organized schooling?

There are so many people suggesting that schools kill creativity, learning is innate & children can learn by themselves, no real life skills are acquired in the current school system, etc. -- the list is really long! If this is all true and we all agree that organized schooling needs big reform, I think we have to step back and ask the ultimate question about the value of organized schooling!

I make a distinction between learning, education and schooling -- with schooling being an attempt to govern/institutionalize education and education representing formalized learning. I think this is important as often people refer to school as the only place where education happens, ignoring programs like the Khan Academy or not to mention the millions of homeschoolers in US alone. They also confuse education with learning, but Sugata Mitra's child-driven education shows that the learning that happens when kids are given tools and left on their own devices is neither formal, nor it can be governed. (He uses the term education tad wrongly, though I suppose with purpose as his is an example of bringing learning and education together.)

I would like to challenge the TED community to think about the value of their own schooling or the value their kids currently in the school system are getting and share their thoughts here!

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  • Mar 11 2011: Lets consider the primary purpose of schooling: to prepare for later life. Quite rightly, the distinction from learning and education has been made; kids are, undoubtedly, capable of digesting books in their bedroom as easily as in class. However, it does represent a FORM of education and learning that cannot be acquired elsewhere: inane rule following, tolerating others without any respite from their presence and, to a degree, leading a life separate to your home life. These can only be acquired in a formal school environment.

    Additionally, even the stifling of creativity could be seen as an essential part of preparation for a life as a cog in society's machine.

    Practical issues must also be considered. Governments have an interest in how many people attend school. the more that receive an education, the better; this may be hard to ensure in a home school system.

    Home schooling is flawed for a variety of reasons. Parents may not be proficient teachers; parents may not have the time and parents may not care enough to ensure their child's education.
    • Mar 11 2011: I agree. I don't think anybody would deny that the school system needs continuous review and modification, much like any other organization, but I am concerned that if the Ken Robinsons of this world have their way we will finish up throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Putting a bunch of kids together and letting them be 'creative' doesn't do a lot to teach them how to manage money later in life, or, as Mike Carr says elsewhere in this thread, figure out how much topsoil is needed to put down a lawn in their back yard. I went through a traditional school system where we memorized multiplication tables and historical dates and weren't allowed to answer back to the teacher, but I managed to come out of it with a lifelong love of reading and learning. I don't think it is the structure or syllabus that makes the difference, so much as the teachers and parents.
      • Mar 27 2011: I would love to know where in any of Ken Robinsons talks he suggests that "Putting a bunch of kids together and letting them be 'creative'" will "teach them how to manage money later in life".
        The whole point of personalized learning is to maximize the individual capability of that person, which translates directly into economy.
        As a practical example, if you discovered that your son had a natural talent and passion for music he could therefore excel beyond the average rate and eventually compose or even become a session player. amongst many other entrepreneurial opportunities. Do you think that taking him away from his passion and teaching him the intricacies of topsoil and it's applications would be of much use?

        Now, if you are concerned about the emphasis on a single subject or a narrow syllabus would lack the comprehensive base of knowledge provided by a traditional syllabus then why not simply be a parent and teach your child how to ration his moneys like any other parent would. Too many people lay their children's futures in the school system and take no responsibility.

        Also, just because you have an anecdotal experience where you successfully came out of school and still wanted to read and learn speaks of absolutely nothing for anyone else. I personally LOVE reading and learning, but I failed school so badly they eventually kicked me out. Having that said, in 10th grade, I held the state grade in Biology and won every award in English creative writing. I found those subjects interesting, however Math could never fix my attention for more than a minute.

        Everybody is different Revett. The current system offers no personalization whatsoever. It may have worked for your but will not necessarily work well for others.
        • Mar 27 2011: >Also, just because you have an anecdotal experience where you successfully came out of school and still wanted to read and learn speaks of absolutely nothing for anyone else. . (snip) . . It may have worked for your but will not necessarily work well for others.<

          I learned more in 20 minutes pulling books off the shelf at random in the regional central library or one of the city’s museums where I often spent my days, than I would all week in high school. Certainly I was fortunate to live in NYC instead of some small rural village without these institutions. The internet has leveled to playing field in that regard. I was graduated because I passed the regents tests, accomplished just by studying the review books. My point is I managed to learn what I have in spite of the education system, not because of it.
        • Mar 27 2011: You are putting words into my mouth. Of course I would nurture my son's skills if he showed talent in a particular area. But my point is that those who would (yet again) experiment with so-called personalized learning are in danger of screwing up the teaching of the basics. Without basic knowledge of the three R's, nobody can function in this world, and basic stuff requires some repetition and rote learning. Suck it up.

          My remark about the way I was taught was intended to illustrate the sentence that followed: namely that I believe it is the teachers and the parents rather than the learning' style' that make for a good education.

          Finally, go back to my original premise: "I don't think anybody would deny that the school system needs continuous review and modification, much like any other organization...". Challenging and, in some case, modifying the way things are done is always healthy, but making radical changes such as are constantly being proposed -- and have been for the past 50 years -- will almost certainly have unintended consequences. Many of the school system's current problems are the result of experiments and changes that have been made already.
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      Mar 21 2011: Matthew - "Home schooling is flawed for a variety of reasons. Parents may not be proficient teachers; parents may not have the time and parents may not care enough to ensure their child's education"

      Parents don't teach - Children learn

      Simplifyingly,

      Peter
    • Mar 25 2011: "Home schooling is flawed for a variety of reasons. Parents may not be proficient teachers; parents may not have the time and parents may not care enough to ensure their child's education."

      If there are flaws in homeschooling, these aren't the ones. No uncaring parent is going to take on the gargantuan task of homeschooling. It's way easier to put them on the big yellow bus every morning than it is to invest your life in helping them learn. As for proficiency in teaching, a homeschooling parent is a tutor working individually with each child at his or her own pace with a love for and a stake in the future of that child that no classroom teacher could ever have.

      I agree wholeheartedly with the above comment that it's the children who do the learning in the first place. It's my job as a homeschooling parent to provide the resources, the direction and the assistance needed for my children to educate themselves.
    • Mar 27 2011: Much more choice and diversity in education will emerge in the next decade.

      Public schools will begin to serve the community better by being unbundled; half of us would synthesize a personalized road-map for our children by selecting a few school programs and a variety of other relevant/innovative programs/resources, while the other half would continue to choose full time school for our children for a variety of reasons. Effective school programs/teachers (the baby v bath water) measured by attendance would factor to shape funding...

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