Goran Kimovski

Senior Technology Consultant, OperatingDev.com


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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 23 2011: Oh my, I could write a book about this.

    I homeschooled / almost unschooled my 5 kids for various periods of their lives. Some got most of the time at home and some got only a few years. They are now all grown up and have left home.

    I am in a good place to have seen how this works...

    We mostly homeschooled because we wanted to raise confident, resilient, caring and curious kids who would make a contribution to their world.

    We did not do it to improve them academically, we believed that if they felt good about themselves and others that they could learn anything later on. It was an experiment that we entered into nervously.

    We read all we could as almost no one in Australia was homeschooling then. Could it be true that left alone kids would learn on their own. Sounded mad but surprise surprise.... it worked.

    Keeping them home for much of their school life made for kids who can teach themselves. On his first year of school our then 14 year old aced the national science exam coming in the top 6%... having done almost no formal science and reading no textbooks. I am still baffled by that! He had a reading age of 32 when he was 12 and we had no focus on academics!

    There are so many stories to tell about this... best of all we had virtually no teenage angst, relationship stress and our kids are amazing adults with great marriages and two are making significant contributions to their world.

    They are all extraordinarily creative, lateral thinkers and socially confident. They are all very caring and turned into wonderful friends.

    4 of them have children and all of them are unschooling or homeschooling their own kids.

    I have one question:

    "Why do people keep thinking that socializing is best done with a small group of immature people in one age group?" It does not make sense. Our kids were socialized by being with people of all ages and nationalities. They have friends across all age groups.
    • Mar 23 2011: toni,

      Your 'controlled group study' was very interesting, thank you. I suspect the genes your children received (and the people who contributed them) had a lot to do with your children's success. Congratulations, and thank you for improving the gene pool.
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      Mar 25 2011: Hi toni!!

      Thanks for your post!

      I have a two year old daughter, and considering options, would love to home school, but think I can’t if I have to work…
      Can you pls send me a list of the bibliography you read/recommend?


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      jag .

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      Mar 25 2011: Toni, WRITE THE BOOK,i want to pre order it lol.
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        Mar 25 2011: ha ha... I am so mad busy trying to support myself (ie with paying jobs) while I make a film with my eldest daughter that writing a book is the last thing on my mind. Maybe I will get there one day.
        Hailey and I have made a few award winning shorts together and are now tackling a feature doc on gratitude.
        Hailey is the one who was homeschooled the longest as I got sick for a few years and the other kids were in school on and off but Hailey was already left home by the time that happened.
    • Apr 6 2011: "Why do people keep thinking that socializing is best done with a small group of immature people in one age group?" It does not make sense. Our kids were socialized by being with people of all ages and nationalities. They have friends across all age groups.

      Concur 100%. I grew up in Brick and Mortar Schools (60's-70's), but had more opportunities than most to "socialize" with a large stratification of world society. Participation in multiple sports, a variety of recreation, travel across the US, and working with my parents, at home as well as professionally, catalyzed interactions that would never have happened in the best of Brick and Mortar schools. My sons are receiving the same socialization format, and are consistently viewed as highly mature, introspective, and well educated.
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    Mar 16 2011: Lets Just start showing TED talks at Schools and also turn this into a systemic program which will be recognizes by government and integrated into local education systems.
    • Mar 21 2011: YEAH!!! (I have learned more from TED in 3 nights of video binge-ing than from 3 months of school)
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        Mar 21 2011: On with the binge!!!! ;-) So true.
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    Mar 10 2011: Maybe the "educational system" (which I'd like to extend to include higher education) was progressive for it's time, maybe not. The point is that it no longer is, because we can recreate all videos and lectures and interactive tutorials at zero marginal cost.

    On top of which, a lot of what they teach you is just wrong, and must be unlearned. 1.) There is no separation of church and state, because a religion is just a way of life, which is what school forces upon kids. 2.) The division between knowledge disciplines is often arbitrary, and knowledge is often not hierarchically structured. For example, at what age should we teach a kid that his brain is more plastic now than it ever will be again? 3.) There is no separation between economics, politics, and religion, because money is a vote upon the allocation of scarce social resources, which means poor people actually have no vote, so we live in a plutarchy. 4.) The legal system protects the wealthy and punishes the poor, and the psychopaths at the top of the wealth hierarchy have little incentive to share with the poor, because wealth doesn't rot. (5) Academia benefits from artificial scarcity by requiring huge time/money costs for people to obtain technical degrees, when in 2011 it should be free for people to be able to learn to do what they want to do, and iit should be free for people to show that they can do what they are fully capable of doing.

    Way back before we could afford all this nonsense, we had apprenticeships, because after millions of years of evolution, we basically learn by doing. On top of which, how can you teach someone to do what's never been done before?

    You would not entrust a fascist, unintelligent person with educating your child. Yet, that is what our educational system now does, because people who became teachers need to eat, too, and our current political/economic system doesn't have an answer for those people, whose jobs have been made obsolete by technology.
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      Mar 23 2011: I thoroughly enjoyed that entire post.
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    Feb 16 2011: I'll start by answering my own question first ;-)

    I think the value of schooling is in its potential to redefine the institution into a community hub bristling with activities where anyone, not just kids of a certain age, can come and have fun, learn, connect! Hubs like these already exist here in Canada and I believe many other places too -- they're called Community Centres. These are places I go with my family to learn ice skating together, have fun swimming with my kids on a rainy day, provide my daughter with an ability to learn how to play a guitar for an affordable cost, connect with my friends as we're waiting in the hall while our daughters have fun in a rhythmic gymnastic class... It saddens me that we make almost no use of the school -- with exception of the playground -- outside the school hours!

    If schools and community centres merge, I believe there is much that will change by itself for how schooling works. From bell schedule, to age grouping, to subject silos, none of those would work in an activity hub. Teachers, students, parents, the community, they will all have an active role in the kids (and everyone else's) education.

    What do you think?
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      Mar 9 2011: Great idea Goran. Maybe they could replace the temple/church/synagogue/mosque/etc as well. A true universal community center.
      • Liza B

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        Mar 10 2011: There are some models out there that combine what we consider to be traditional school functions and those of community centers. They're called community schools, and they attempt to make schools a space for families, not just students, by providing services like citizenship classes, early child hood family education, English language classes, job trainings and career services, a community library, a parent resource room and more. I know that this is a model that some schools in the Chicago area are trying, but I think it's a movement that is gaining momentum.
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      Mar 12 2011: Goran, I find your ideas really compelling: expanding the notion of school to include a much wider range of activities and community (especially parental) involvement. Not only could this help transform the emotional environment of school for children, but it might also be a better investment of public money and resources.

      One idea I'd like to throw out in answer to your question of formal school value is that students are exposed to a wider variety of subjects than what they might choose to explore on their own. In fact, I see this as the principal danger of plans such as Ken Robinson's where the child is the primary director of their own studies. We all grow and mature when faced with challenges that don't "interest" us (at least not at first!).
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        Mar 13 2011: I agree with thi, and I think it sort of also has to do with the preparation to function in society well i.e. You're not going to have very many opportunities to pick and choose which parts of a job you want to do, and what better way to understand that than to teach it in a safe, educational environment? And to that effect, it is completely true that you never know if you will truly ever dislike/like something until you try it! It keeps our minds open to new things! However, this is all not to say that our current form of education is providing us with pissibly a 'full-bodied' area of study, and perhaps there are improvements to be made in these areas in order to give people a better sense of a fulfilling education?
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        Mar 15 2011: Independent and personal learning (learner-lead, child-directed) does not mean tunnel-vision learning. In fact, it's hard to think of any teacher with a comprehensive knowledge of all subjects.

        With the advent of online collaborative spaces, sharing ideas does not have to wait until its allocated slot in the timetable in a particular place with particular people.

        The trick will be investigating all the opinions and arguments, evidence and theories out there in a way that draws out the relevant and identifies the irrelevant or wildly opinionated or inaccurate.
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          Mar 21 2011: The beauty is the trick is not = The Learner leaders lead themselves to the relevant.

          Reflective Lernerleaderingly,

    • Mar 13 2011: I completely agree-- schools, especially public schools, serve important roles as institutes of education, and also as institutions that gather and bring together the community. I work in a community school in an underprivileged and undeserved community, and see the positive effects that the school, which brings together teachers, staff, health care workers, social services personnel, community members, and students have on the holistic well being of the community.

      I am trying not to resent the above comments that organized schooling may not be necessary. I agree with Sir Robinson that our systems of education need reforms, however, I don't think we can systematically dismiss the good that comes from our public schools. Schools are places of social as well as intellectual learning, and our hardworking teachers are fostering students' creativity within the confines of the American educational system every day.

      I strongly believe that with some creative thinking our public schools can mend some of their mistakes, and foster even more growth among their students.
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        Mar 13 2011: Do you believe the widely-held view that, in America, a child can only get as good an education as his/her parents can afford him/her, is accurate?
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        Mar 21 2011: Ellen, just a clarifying point: Sir Robinson says clearly that school reform is not the answer, total transformation is.
    • Mar 23 2011: I agree about the community centers merging with schools. I find that ad-hoc organizations (which are really just informal gatherings with a general purpose - but no leader) are very effective, both for learning and a variety of other uses. I especially like your use of the phrase "subject silos"

      However something as organic as that cannot be compulsory, which is the biggest problem facing education - how to ensure that everyone receives an education while simultaneously making them want one. As soon as it becomes optional, some will not attend which is a dangerous proposition to a country that wants to entertain the idea of equality in all of its citizens.
    • Jun 25 2011: I love the idea of a community center. I actually discussed having one instead of school and church and all of the other areas of life that segregate society. I beleive they would be more efficient because they would help provide all of the functions all other sociallizing organizations provide, but in one place, so it is more likely for the community to put in a helping hand (that isn't just money), and for the community to accept everyone's differences. Segregating everyone into age groups isn't too different from segregating them based on sex or race. I was much farther ahead of my peers for most of my grade school education, and had they allowed me to further my education by being in a class that was challenging for me, instead of a class that fit my age, I would be even more educated and mature, as well as prepared for the world because I had actually faced a challenge while growing up. *Input that isn't needed follows here* No child left behind is ridiculous, as it tries to put the top of the top with the bottom of the bottom, when children should be able to be in the class based on the education they need, and if they want to be in an even harder class they should be allowed, but if they can not succeed in that class they should be moved down the the next class instead of the teacher just passing them so their own class averages don't drop. The bell curve in education isn't just a theory, it's been proven. Everyone is on a different level, and you can't flatten it out because then some kids get the short end of the stick, and others can't catch up.
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    Mar 11 2011: Right now, school serves at least 3 purposes: education, socialization, and daytime childcare. Any substitute system needs to take all of these into account.

    Organized schools have two economic purposes: education of the populace and workforce, and freeing up adult labor for use during school hours.
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      Mar 15 2011: You forgot to add 'sometime political tool'
  • Feb 23 2011: In the U.S., the motivation for legislating mandatory education was not entirely altruistic. John Taylor Gatto's book, THE UNDERGROUND HISTORY OF AMERICAN EDUCATION, presents very convincing evidence that many of the 'founding fathers' of public education were bigoted phrenologists whose goals were to maintain and exacerbate a rigid, class-based consumer culture. Carnegie, who spent his own money funding the establishment of so-called "public education," believed a primary role of public schools was to separate the children of the poor & immigrant populations from their parents. For him & other privileged white men, these children had to be FORCED to go to school because they were too ignorant to know what was best for them. The poor were poor because they were immoral - and public education would show them the error of their ways and the benefits of obedience to consumerism.

    Public schools were obedience factories: take this class, move when this bell rings, do as you're told, stop talking, be quiet, do your homework, do this because I know it's best for you...

    The problem today is that this corruption within the foundations of the public school system has never been rooted out. It is now systemic and there is no antidote. For the most part, public schools are still obedience factories. They exist primarily to provide industry with acquiescent laborers who do not question or challenge the status quo, automatons who believe what they are told and obey. They only thing we have changed is that there is no longer any industry.

    There is no positive value in organized schooling - unless, as you suggest in your own answer, students and families become invested in organizing their own learning. Until then, the state will always have ulterior motivations for requiring mandatory indoctrination. The modern world calls for independent thinkers who know no "box," much more than think outside it. The only solution is to abandon the system.
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      Mar 6 2011: I agree. Much of what you mentioned is rooted in exploiting the behavior psychology of human beings. Many can affirm eloquently on the missing element to traditional mainstream education -- creativity and independent thought, etc. -- but would omit the "why" and "how" compulsory education became the way it was. Interesting you mention Gatto's book. I'd also recommend similar but condensed books: "Weapons of Mass Instruction" and "The Leipzig Connection" and also more notably "Deliberate Dumbing Down of America" by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt who previously worked as Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Department of Education during President Reagan's time.

      I've seen many folks on TED founding schools based on newer ways of learning and teaching. I'd say they light the future way in respect to education, because as Gatto had said, the current educational system is an autonomous organism that is resistant to being reinvented from within.
    • Liza B

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      Mar 10 2011: I think stating that organized schools have no positive value is putting it too strongly. The public school system, perhaps created and streamlined for dubious purposes, does one very important thing for children: it provides a space to learn no matter who you are, where you come from, or how much money your parents make. While alternative models of education, like homeschooling or experimental schools, can provide innovative avenues for children to pursue learning, they can't provide to that to everyone. Not all children have parents in a situation to education them at home, or live in areas with access to alternative schools, but the public school system does provide for them. It has been set up to welcome all children, and that is its greatest value.
  • Mar 21 2011: I'd like to reference the Royal Society for the Advancement of the Arts (a British organization similar to TED).

    In the video, the speaker mentions something - the fact that today's schooling is still based on the outdated industrial revolution. Whereas I wouldn't go so far as to say the parallel englightenment period thinking should be done away with, there are some considerations that should be made. The speaker made the following points:

    1.) Public schools were designed for the industrial revolution and in the image of them.
    2.) You've got factory type schedules (Think how bells mimic shift-changes for factory workers)
    3.) You've got compartmentalized departments (For example, is statistics math or social science? Knowledge doesn't have an intrinsic line of demarcation and we should be emphasizing interdisciplinary thinking in todays age.
    4.) Students are created in batches (classroom) where their - apparently - most important commonality is the year of manafacture (See how students are grouped together as class of 2011, or 2012. This inadequately explains real learning differences between students of the same age).
    5.) Finally, no student is the same and a society that aims at creating a standardized human population will not survive, especially today. Ford's assembly works great with building cars but when it comes to people, you quickly begin to realize that some come pre-built, some with parts missing, some even without instructions. Some of the same parts go in different places for different students. It's like saying a one-size fits all t-shirt is going to fit an octopus.

    To answer the question, I do have concerns about publicly mandated schooling, and about the way such programs fit into democracies in general. There is way too much of a distinction between school and life. The two aren't naturally separated and to doing so just increases the tension of the student.
  • 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


    • 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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    Mar 28 2011: A school model founded on the principal that all human beings are not created equal, all humans have varying competences; have vast and subjective interests, capabilities, motivation, etc. would increase the likelihood for success for more children.
    A system that teaches critical thinking, problem solving, self-reliance and inter-dependence would increase the likelihood for success and possibly happiness, for more children.
  • Mar 20 2011: Schools as presently constituted are not working at most levels. I recommend parents should read "Dumbing Us Down" by John Gatto. It may seem radical to some but I think that nearly all K-12 schools should simply be closed. Sadly I find that school architecture and prison architecture look very similar, why is that? I recently seen a poster, printed I believe by a local school district. The headline read, 40% of children in Grades 4 to 7 reported being bullied. That is the self-reporting number. What is the real number? Much higher I suspect. The schools would be an even bigger disaster if not for a lot of very dedicated teachers, working within a disfunctional system. Children need less schooling not more. Age segregation is the source of many of the problems in schools. Teacher centric vs Student centric is another major problem, schools and curriculums are designed for the needs for the convenience of teachers and the education bureaucracy, not to meet the real needs of students. I urge parents to think about educating their children themselves with the support of friends and family. Throw out the standard curriculum it is totally counter productive to real learning. Let children follow their interests, they get bored easily so they won't be inactive for long. It is my experience that for learning to occur, the material must have meaning and context. The standardize curriculums have neither for every student past and present that I know. Trust your kids, spend time with them, it doesn't really matter what you do, just be around them, for when they need you, they are very capable of independent and self-directed learning. Get off their back, stop nagging. Just be there for them. If you cut through it all, if both parents are working at jobs outside the home the result is minimal time with their children, these children get that they are just not that important to their parents. Think about it.
  • Mar 19 2011: Just watched Khan's video and it points out several important points that were key in my choice to homeschool my children. Slow/Gifted is a snapshot, not a permanent state. No Swiss Cheese holes in learning. And more.

    I very much like, and think appropriate, the shift that Khan mentions - to humanize the classroom and use that time to work out rough spots, including having the kids help each other. A school that offered that would be a useful sort of schooling. And it would involve the kids in the process instead of them being more passive receptors and regurgitators.

    I found this post/speech by a valedictorian intriguing - http://americaviaerica.blogspot.com/2010/07/coxsackie-athens-valedictorian-speech.html. She gets it.
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      Mar 21 2011: Hello Jean,

      Would you like to live in New Zealand in a home education village?


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        Mar 23 2011: Pretty sure that depends on the village, Peter ; )
  • Mar 22 2011: Learning the pecking order.
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      Mar 23 2011: And if you're good, manipulating it. Amazing how complex those interactions were when kids are all shoved into a small space with little to do or dream of and no outstanding social structure!
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    Mar 21 2011: I friend of mine just shared this with me: http://www.slate.com/id/2288402 (Why Preschool Shouldn't Be Like School -- New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire.)

    I'd like to share few excerpts here as they're highly relevant to this discussion:

    "Direct instruction really can limit young children's learning. Teaching is a very effective way to get children to learn something specific. But it also makes children less likely to discover unexpected information and to draw unexpected conclusions."

    "That means, it's more important than ever to give children's remarkable, spontaneous learning abilities free rein. That means a rich, stable, and safe world, with affectionate and supportive grown-ups, and lots of opportunities for exploration and play. Not school for babies."
  • Mar 21 2011: Our family has a broad range of educational experience (public, private, homeschool) and we are always looking for ways to expand educational experience. When the children were young we put a large world map on the wall in the dinning room and would constantly refer to it during dinner discussion, as a result my American children have an uncharacteristically strong understanding about world geography. When we traveled, my wife would read aloud books that had themes connected with the particular regional that we were traveling through. These books were not travel books, but literature. We once took an entire vacation to explore the "underground railroad" after reading Uncle Tom's Cabin
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    Mar 21 2011: I find this applicable to so many other subjects! While I can see how it would be hard to run some chemistry experiments outside the classroom, I still remember how some of my early exposure to it made me interested to learn more -- I still like to put bread in my mouth and chew it for a long time, resisting the urge to swallow, so I can get the sweetness that comes as sugars get formed by the chemical reactions in the mouth ;-)

    Overcoming the false environment problem and extending the learning outside the classroom is a major issue that requires involvement from the students, the parents, the community really. For example, to keep presence of French in our home (and we're already bi-lingual with English and Macedonian) we're turning the language into one we use to play. With a bit of an effort on my side, I am trying to remember few words and learn few sentences myself and then challenge my daughter to teach me more by playing guessing or matching games. This past weekend we did a pretend game calling some girl from Paris on the "phone" and my daughter spent 3-4 minutes talking in French with her in an unscripted conversation -- it turned out the girl was poor and we needed to make some cloths for her, but the materials were on a different planet ;-)

    I'd love to hear more ideas how to keep the experience in the schools spill out of its walls. Rather than turning to homeschooling, I would like to help schools reinvent themselves so they can offer rich learning experiences and become environments where the authentic self is appreciated and the learning is the goal!

    END ... (3 of 3)
  • Mar 21 2011: I attended high school in a very rural area. 99.98% of my school body was Caucasian. Not only that, but by the time I graduated, I was the only senior who had participated in four years of art class. There was no cultural variety, the closest I experienced was the disparity between Catholics and Non-denominational Christians. Oddly enough though, this fostered a sense of creativity in me personally. This austere setting gave me a drive to want to be better than any of my class mates, I wanted to transgress these boundaries we all lived by.

    I realized–at about the time of exiting secondary education–that organized schooling was truly only a way of reinforcing conventional knowledge and setting some form of standards to live by. Unfortunately, I'm not able to speak from the viewpoint of someone who has experience growing up in an urban setting. The cultural variety, and hopefully the availability of more than 5 AP classes would more than likely foster a much more creative student body.

    Even having said all of this, I believe that truly great teachers, those who can magnify these "standards" imposed by boards and governments can really be the true savior to this endemic.
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      Mar 23 2011: Too bad we are rather poor at finding these truly great teachers. I have no doubt though, that they exist :)
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    Mar 20 2011: the true value of organized schooling is just that, its organized into manageable chunks of time so that we can pretend to follow a daily routine. the way things are going now in the world, with around the clock outsourcing, cheap labor and virtually free and excellent modes of education and training, tables have turned on the system of education itself. We should have greater international collaboration between schools around the world now, we are no longer a country, we are one species, we can communicate on skype and twitter and video chat with whomever we want, the barriers have been broken forever. time for educational institutes (from kindergarten to university level) to accept the technology and move ahead. Students should decide their own syllabus based on current trends and industry requirements, a modular approach, abolish the fixed university syllabus (univeral courses).
  • Mar 15 2011: I think that education has been institutionalized to the point where kids are losing interest and not gaining what they need from the experience. I have 3 bright kids at home who have spent more time sitting in a desk doing worksheets than any other task. They are lukewarm about their experiences in school, because the routine has become so monotonous. I agree with Robinson that school is so output-based in a way that is very limiting to a child's potential. I dislike hearing that schools are cutting programs that kids so desperately need to stay interested and challenged through using their body or a different part of their brain. The way we educate children needs to change!
    • Mar 16 2011: I completely agree. I just had a conversation with an English teacher who has over 170 students. Her school district is now making her give weekly email updates to the parents about their childrens' grades, and they are now required to keep the grades online and available for the parents, as well as updated weekly.

      So, we used to trust our teachers with our children. Instead we have bogged them down with meaningless tasks. I can see communicating with parents at parents' requests and more often than every 6-9 weeks through report cards. To have to send an email to 170-250 parents (some may be divorced or separated) every week, and compose it in a professional way, that's either going to turn into form letters, or it's going to take 10-15 minutes per email. Add on 5 minutes per student for weekly grading reports being input into school computers to post online and we'll be generous and call it 20 minutes total. 20x170 is 3400 minutes or more than 56 hours PER WEEK. Feel free to knock it down to 10 minutes per student instead of 20 since those form letters will show up very soon. So only a mere 28 hours a week on frivolous duties.
      Now imagine what great lesson that teacher could have spent her time on. Imagine how much more time she could have spent giving thoughtful feedback on writing papers or essay responses. ALL gone. She now has to hand out workbook assignments or get them to write short paragraph answers to questions instead of full-on research papers or essays about the last novel they read, etc., or in some other way eliminate excellent teaching with mediocre teaching because her bosses are morons.
      My point is that many teachers are feeling the same way as we are.
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        Mar 16 2011: Scott, I agree with you! Just because we have technology, we are asking teachers to do extra work. It just does not make sense. We need to use technolog wisely. Just suppose if every email message that we recieve on the Internet were letters from the postal carriers. Our homes would be full of letters, and unfortunately we will not have the time to read all of our letters. Our trash containers would be full, right? Principals or superintendents should not provide extra work to teachers unless they have experienced the process themselves.Vance
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    Feb 27 2011: Kima,

    In structured learning environments, students learn to:
    -meet someone else's expectations
    -meet deadlines
    -function in conjunction with their peers
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      Feb 27 2011: -in classes-indoor,outdoor, experimental--in groups, students learn from each other, collaboration. But I don't know how structured it has to be. Depends on the students.

      --the question few people ask is--do kids want to be educated. I would say no. Being a student is a choice. Something has turned kids off from learning. It is laborious, a chore, boring to them. You cant teach somebody who doesn't want to be taught who doesn't care.

      So how do we get kids to care, to be curious, to love learning. I feel that they need to be outside in the environments related to the topic at hand. But administration, often the same people trying to tear down education and privatize it--throw up obstacles and reject experiential learning. They want order order order, structure--its kinda fascist. And kids don't respond well to fascism.
    • Mar 10 2011: Children can also gain confidence and skills as they interact with peers. They learn how to handle problems. They learn how they are in dealing with adults or authority figures. And they learn how it is to be away from mom and dad for a time. Public school isn't the only place these things could be learned, and poor lessons can be learned in the same arena - they could learn to feel inferior as they interact with peers, etc. I have heard of a child whose self-confidence was destroyed by a teacher.

      I've seen many positives in my children attending public school, which they've only done 25% of the time, but for a positive experience, a parent needs to be watchful, attentive, engaged with what's going on with the child at school.

      Children should not go to public school too early - age 8 is early enough.
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    Jul 24 2011: The education in public schooling my not be the the best. But, it provides the basis of social communications and I weigh this as important if not more than the quality of schooling.
  • Mar 30 2011: While we are on this topic of education, I found this to be amazing: http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110329/ts_yblog_thelookout/for-12-year-old-astrophysics-prodigy-the-skys-the-limit. This kid is 12 years old and has an IQ of 170! My question is...is he the product of organized schooling?
    • Jun 25 2011: IQ isn't necessarily tought, it's innate. It's the ability your brain has. At least that's what I have been tought by this organized schooling...If I'm wrong correct me because I'd rather be educated for what's right, than just thinking I knwo what's right.
  • Mar 28 2011: It can´t be reasonably argued that traditional schooling has no value. It can´t be reasonably arued that homeschooling or unschooling have no value. We have too many incredible success stories that come from each of the myriad paths. At the very least, the institutions have the key elemnents of space, shelter and resources, not to mention the people who care happen to be in these institutions. It´s a question of evolution, or I should say an answer. Evolving ourselves and allowing our institutions to evolve. There is no good reason why my alma matter can´t instantly and incredibly morph into a learning explosion with the tools we have to offer at hand. Our system is outdated, there is no question and the kids in our schools don´t act the way you, I or their parents want them to. Remember though that the most important thing still exists, and that´s that they do want to go. Even if it´s solely for the company, they still want to go. They just don´t want to go and be force fed. Just like you and me, they (I should say we) want to do what we want to do, and we don´t lke it when we can´t. All it takes is a little breathing room, maybe a little kick from the outside. Maybe a little help from the passionate writers that present here, maybe the right tool? But I think it´s really just a little more room to be who we are.
  • Mar 27 2011: Organized schooling is to me like any other energy. Neutral. For instance, the voice is neutral but it can carry negative words and ideas or loving words and ideas. The value will be based on the values at the top.

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    Mar 26 2011: It is more or less impossible to deny that schools and colleges are serving a great purpose in our lives. In addition to education that we receive or try to receive its is incredibly important for social learning. We are all interdependent on each other and social interactions are an imperative part of our life. Now there are some clear changes that need to happen in the schooling of our children. Thinking must be emphasized over rote memorization, there cannot be too much emphasis on that. Additionally, the children that excel should not be targeted by other as nerds and bullied around, there needs to be a system to prevent that from happening. We cannot allow punishment for being good at what you're supposed to do. Teachers need a lot more training in helping the students that require more time to comprehend certain topics. Khan Academy is dead on that just because you receive an 80 an exam does not you fully understand at 20% you're still missing an important chunk of the topic. These are things that need to be debated and really brought into light. There should not be spending cuts in education, that is absurd. Especially today when our country is going through a real crisis in education. It is a disgrace and absolutely disgusting that today teachers are facing lay offs and their measly salaries are being labeled extravagant. It is the limit of irrationality.
  • Mar 25 2011: Ultimately, I believe that education needs to be totally reconstructed. My organization is doing a lot of work in redefining education and creating the next generation of leaders. We need to create intellectual communities that radically revolutionize our world and our communities.
  • Mar 25 2011: As a current college student, I feel both empowered and limited by my current education. I feel grateful for the incredible diversity of courses I have been able to take, and the larger world view I now see as a result of my liberal arts education. However, I also feel frustrated, when I am particularly passionate about a subject and there is not flexibility in the curriculum to explore areas that interest me more; I am also frustrated when we are forced to learn topics that do not apply to fields we are interested in.

    To me, there is a lot of value in organized education in that it is the most efficient way we know of to educate the majority of people (although there are certainly great alternatives out there). I feel that students should be encouraged to search for outside resources and given opportunities to explore their passions. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to embark on any sort of auto-didactic work, but they should be encouraged as much as possible along the way.
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    jag .

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    Mar 25 2011: Bad Side: For me, as a uni student one of the values of organised schooling is fuc*ing stressing out the students, by overworking them and teaching in inefficient ways, whilst simultaneously excepting students to be excellent at studying (without ever teaching students effective ways to study!).

    Good side: If your on a course you like, then there will be parts that are very interesting, and these are enjoyable to experience.
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    L Alex

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    Mar 25 2011: I have taught in the public sector for seven years. I taught in the private sector for three years. I can appreciate the comments and great insight given; however, everyone here are invested parents or invested individuals. Public education does work. Could it be better? YES! Presently, public educators are in a fierce battle against the powers that be to protect the education that they WANT to impart. Because of the insane dependency on testing, administrators are actually telling teachers to look at the state mandated tests and make sure the students can pass. ~This is not an education.

    Invested parents/individuals want an education that teaches students to ask more questions. So do teachers. I/we want to have in depth discussions on art, music, politics, literature and science. I/we want to empower our students with the confidence to ask questions and then the ambition to find answers to those same questions.

    Public education does need reform; however, it is public. Not all parents are as involved and it shows in the classroom. As many of you have posted, education starts at home. Some parents are not physically available for their children because of financial burdens or others are not interested. All of these students are in class with your wonderful child.

    If we truly want to change education, then we need to come together. Communities and education. Children need someone to look up to and help them make sense of their world. Those children who do not have support at home might find support from a parent/adult that is interested in them.

    A lot of decisions are being made about education without educator/parent input. If you want to be informed or you want to make a difference, get on the school board. Talk to the teachers. Visit their classrooms. Ask questions.
  • Mar 23 2011: The true value of organized teaching is evident in the evolution of science and technology. So much so that many have access to computer technology which allows for mass, cross social spectrum discussion on the importance (or not) of organized schooling....

    The relation of organized schooling to educational achievement thus leading to social development thru technical advancement cannot be underestimated....hopefully for better & not worse.

    The ability of organized schooling to deal with the longer term negative effects(i.e. social exclusion due to perceived inferiority) of organized schooling, well that's another matter.....I believe that is why more and more people are now trying to find alternative education methods which teach for 'better' individual and societal needs.....

    Certain legacies of Organized schooling have bred social instability.....i.e. increased industrialization & mechanization leading to accelerated environmental depletion , warfare induced technical evolution surges, diminished self reliance, diminished local, national and international resilience, raising of false hopes (many are losing faith in the higher educated, is there another book burning on the way ?)....
    In Organized schoolings’ favor, many of these negative legacies of our recent evolution can be attributed to the increased dependency on money as a social organizer rather than the implementation of organized schooling.

    We now live in an age where there is a growing battle between resource and ability to access it, those that have battled to the 'top of the money tree' don't understand the incentive to climb down and share the view...hence the growing perception that society is becoming more exclusive than inclusive.....

    There surely is a valid argument to whether the 'Enlightenment period' of organized schooling should be renamed....
    1) The un-enlightened period
    2) The era of accelerated social instability
    3) The era of the Ivy League Legacy of Social ILLS ( The era of ILLS)
  • Mar 23 2011: Central governments now have highly evolved planning capabilities, just look at the construction of places like FEMA. It's a reaction to existence in a dangerous and increasingly fragile world.

    Evolution clearly shows a 'wish' to enforce order on chaos. Organized schooling is I believe part of that wish.
    The question now is whether government led society (i.e. the United Nations) can utilize much of what was & can be gained from organized schooling and implement it to bring about a stable environment on a globe of peaceful equal opportunity, with a long term view of propagation of our species, across the known universe.
    You would think this would mean investing in the positives of technology & organized schooling i.e. educating for our needs including the reduction of competitive job procurement, alternative energy, massive land reclamation and reinstating, openly structured government encouraging the participation of all, geo-engineering to influence natural cycles…….
    Yet we have and have had….natural environment degradation by over industrialization, investment in the war machine rather than the mediation machine… suppression of alternative energies and other technologies, because of it’s perceived infringement on the profit making abilities of the private industrial ladder of hierarchy….the ignorant stupidity of elitism out of step with the needs of a growing world population on a planet of ‘finite’ resources.

    Irrespective of waffle….organized schooling seems to have reduced (at least in this country) occurrences such as this…

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    Mar 23 2011: After over 30 years in pubic schooling my answer to the question, "What is the true value (if any) of organized schooling?" is simple: Congregation.

    That said, the complexity of the question rests with its verb.
  • Mar 23 2011: I do not have much to say about my own school experience apart from it gave me lots of time to dream about what was going on, on the other side of the mountain. Mind you this was on the coast of Norway were every person has a mountain to face, at least a big rock! BUT I will say something about the schooling of my 3 children that are now grown up and all creative thinkers. They went to Waldorf schoolsl. I am amazed that nobody in these comments has mentioned the international Waldorf school movement. In short the philosophy behind there thinking is (to use a metaphor) to "kindle the fire rather then fill a bucket."
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    Mar 21 2011: While I understand the "environment to learn and experience" aspect -- which is where my idea of merging community centers and schools and turning them into learning hubs is focusing too -- I find that the opportunity to learn skills like learning to follow directions or socializing with adults can be found elsewhere too and is not unique to schools. As a matter of fact, in a rural environment or the traditional indigenous cultures, these skills are acquired without any plan or curriculum as the nature of the interactions in those societies provides for daily opportunities to learn those skills.

    One thing that is offered by learning environments that work and seem to be lacking from the school setting is the opportunity for the learner to immerse in the experience. As long as the kids are split by age and the curriculum controlled by the teacher or some far removed bureaucracy, the schools will only provide false sense of immersiveness -- as one French teacher described to me the environment inside the French Immersion schools here in Canada. (sadly, my own daughter is in one such environment, which is a point of pain for me, but that is a different story!)

    What the teacher meant by the false environment is that in her classroom, she is the only one that is constantly using French and is motivated (or at least incentivized) to keep on doing that as a way to offer the experience to the kids. The kids find it very easy to slip back to English, since once they're outside the classroom, they have no reason to keep speaking French.

    CONTINUES ... (2 or 3)
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    Mar 21 2011: I am overwhelmed by all the responses and I would like to thank everyone for contributing their thoughts so far! I find this topic of immense importance not just to me but to every parent and educator I had a chance to talk with as I am working to organize TEDxKids@BC. Understanding the value of schooling and education is one of the goals for the conference as we're trying to bring speakers together that have experienced learning in various ways and are applying their passion and skills in doing inspiring work or pushing forward some amazing ideas. The three things we all try to understand are:

    - What makes us the authentic selves we all seem to show when not inhibited by social pressures or need to comply?
    - Do we become those authentic selves as we grow up or we've always had them with us and what we really learn is when to be someone else?
    - If the current schooling system teaches us how to comply and keep the authentic selves in a hidden place, can schooling and education ever be positive forces that nurture our propensity to be curious about the world, wishing to discover it for ourselves, create new value through our passions, and maybe even change it!?

    I agree with many of the comments why the current system doesn't provide enough value or on the contrary does more damage instead. However, my interest is not in finding the flaws, but finding if the concept of "learning in an institution whose goal is teaching" has any value in it at all.

    One underlying theme I can see bubbling up from many comments is that schools provide an environment where the kids can learn and experience stuff they ordinarily have no chance to in other places. Some of the learnings called out seem to include how to follow directions, meet deadlines, work in groups. On top, some of you suggested that we need schools for the socialization aspect, in particular the opportunity to interact with adults outside the family circle.

    CONTINUES ... (1 of 3)
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    Mar 21 2011: Some value in shcooling?

    For the factory owner or the incarcerated?

    Take the bait?

    Lovingly, :-)

  • Mar 21 2011: >What is the true value (if any) of organized schooling?< It depends on the organization. If schools were organized right, you wouldn't be able to keep the kids away

    Once upon a time we had one room school houses with one teacher for all grades. Granted there was a lot less knowledge then, but it did have the advantage of the older students helping to teach their younger school mates, effectively lowering the student teacher ratio and also benefitting the older students as well, among other things.

    I think something was lost when school systems were restructured to make processing students through an education system as economic as possible. The priority became moving students though a system as efficiently as possible for the benefit of the system at the expense of the student. I’m not advocating a return to the one room system necessarily. I’m advocating for many different systems, academic, apprentice, etc., maybe the one room among them.

    It will be more difficult to judge the success of several systems. You would have to question each student to see what they learned and how they learned best. It would be time consuming, just like a tailor made suit. But it would serve the students better, which would in turn serve the society better.

    Re: Coxsackie-Athens Valedictorian Speech 2010. That was great!
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    Mar 19 2011: Socialization. Creates a desire to learn that lasts a lifetime, if you have at least one great teacher. Seeing children's eyes light up when something clicks. (No, I'm not a teacher.)

    Without it, how would we use the computer on which we are pondering this question?
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    Mar 16 2011: I enjoyed the video on Salmon Khan's effort to improve learning. I can see the benefits of "flipping" the classrooms from lecture-style presentations to actually preforming school work in the classrooms. I can see the worth of these programs with adult learners, too.

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    Mar 15 2011: The idea of self-directed high schoolers has gone mainstream:
    Let Kids Rule the School!

    Engels asks the obvious: how else will young people learn to take control of their own lives, their own destinies, and their own learning, if not by doing it on their own? Why shouldn't their "socialization" including teaching each other, learning from each other, and helping one another to learn and grow? Why does their education have to be coercive?

    "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. To the contrary, I believe it would be possible to rob even a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness, if it were possible, with the aid of a whip, to force the beast to devour continuously, even when not hungry."
    ~ Albert Einstein
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    Mar 15 2011: There is value in all forms of organisation. In New Zealand, the national curriculum and the running of individual classrooms is flexible and the focus has been on the learner for some time now but the shift from paper to pixels is causing a lot of fuss.

    Fundamentally, the human being as a learner has not changed. Tools have always shaped human history. Many of the characteristics of the "21st Century Learner" that I have seen are attributes that have always been valued.

    As a teacher, I have always been suspect of the purpose of most standardised assessment. It seems to serve the ministry of education far more than the individual learners. As a result, I have always put the wellbeing of the kids in my class ahead of any testing methods or results.

    In the end, society is made up of all sorts of groups and organisations. In the future, as in the past, it will come down to the individuals involved - the learners, parents and teachers - their attitudes, conduct and dreams.
  • Mar 14 2011: I do like the idea of community centers, and there are community centers all over, usually old schools, but many of the elementary schools get used for after school care and many middle and high schools have open gyms and grounds for the community to use, I know firsthand that if you are a parent you can typically go through some hoops with the school's principal, PTA, and possibly school board to have after hours access for something community oriented. It is, however, typically not free as they have to have school staff at the function for insurance and liability reasons, sad but true.
  • Mar 14 2011: Reading some of the other threads it seems that schools are tagged only with left brained thinking, ok, so as parents get their creativity flowing, help them choose music and/or art, or whatever else they want to try, let them explore science and reading, and sports, etc., most of these activities have become extracurricular anyway due to budget cuts. The creativity needs to be brought on by friends and family, not left to the underfunded schools, let them deal with the "left brained" basics the best they can.
  • Mar 14 2011: For me, the true value of formal education is not actually the learning, but the competition and forced sociability. When your kids go to school they are learning from everyone there, including other peers, not just the adults. They learn to acceptably cope with tough social situations and dangers, and then there's the competitive side to things, whether academically, socially, or physically, competition is a good thing. It is ok to lose and to win, it's what gives us drive and perseverance in tough situations and the knowledge that even though it's not something we want to do we still have to because it's socially demanded. My greatest fear is to see children home schooled and never put in situations where everyone around them won't be nice to them, where those around them wont challenge their way of thinking, where they won't learn to be openminded instead of only what the one teacher and parents have been teaching, or what the book only teaches. In addition at the middle school and high school level you typically meet other neighborhoods as well, for a greater social knowledge and integration. Groups of neighborhood kids learning together works great, as long as they can be competitive and social with other neighborhoods and even other school districts, otherwise things end up more tribal/clannish than they already are.
    • Mar 15 2011: "meet other neighbourhoods" - only if one can afford to travel to schooling, otherwise it's likely that all one's peers at school will be from the same ghetto - sorry, I mean council estate. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship type arrangement to go to a grammar school. Prior to that, I when to a 'comprehensive' which was anything but. Most kids walked to the school, which tell you they were all from the same neighbourhood. A bare handful of the parents weren't born to that area. Social integration only happens where schools happen to be in a border zone between affluent and less-affluent areas. Or have city sized catchement areas.
      • Mar 15 2011: I agree that especially in large cities, even at the high school level, it seems its the same children, but think how fewer it is with home schooling. Each high school where I grew up (city of 200,000) had two to three middle schools funneling into it, and each middle school has four to five elementary schools funneled to it. So high school really does come from more than one neighborhood, at least for most mid-sized towns and even small cities.
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    Mar 13 2011: In spite and despite of ideas brought on against it, there is still great value with organized schooling as it allows us to establish the concept we call "common knowledge". Like it or not, your current school iteration still has a huge impact on how you develop your thoughts and logic. They are the ones who lay foundations.

    This value doesn't isn't against the idea of giving it a makeover. Time and again everyone has underestimated the role of education professionals on building "brains" and "spirit".
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    Mar 12 2011: I truly do believe that our education system is beneficial to the growing minds of our society, in the simplest sense that they are being well prepared, to adopt a lifestyle fitting of the society which they live in. In this respect, our form of education does quite well, because in order to thrive in society one has to be able to function well within it. My issues with the education system have nothing to do with this, but everything to do with the personal belief that there is more to life than just being a proper 'sheep' within society. Anyway, it is true that every institution has its flaws and it can not be perfected, simply because everyone's defenition of the 'perfect system' is different and you can not please everyone. In the end, I suppose we must choose what is best for our childern in order for them to function well in society, and that may be as far as the bounds of 'public education' can reach in that regard. In respect to Matthew Oliver's comments (in hopes that I am understanding you correctly, I apologize if I am not), is it the governments job to teach our children about creativity/exploration, in respect of the notion that the education system is set up as it is, to train our children in proper societal functioning? If this is currenly not part of its focus, should it be? I don't know, just rambling off some questions, feel free to answer critically or disregard.
    • Mar 12 2011: I cannot speak on behalf of the government but, even if we ARE to say that creativity and exploration should be on a list of governmental duties then it would also be fair to say that a formal schooling environment can encourage this when paired with an outside life as well. Children being exposed to very different 'worlds' could surely only help in the development of these skills.
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        Mar 16 2011: Matthew, I have a healthy regard for homeschoolers, and I also see good parents who are willing to teach their children. Yes, there will be exceptions. I am a public school teacher, and too often, I find students who wish to be somewhere else than school. Education has to change, and I fear that it will not be an effective organization to help students to learn. The best thing we can do as teachers is to allow children to learn how to teach themselves. For the first time in history, our job as teachers is to prepare students for a future that can not clearly describle. What we know today about building job skills for students may not exist in 10 or 15 years. Changes are taken place rapidly.

        Matthew, I am new at this kind of thing, and I hope it will be a new learning experience for me.

      • Mar 21 2011: I think that maybe this problem goes beyond just the government or the parents: it's almost nature versus nurture. Can we nurture children to become creative thinkers, the next great inventor of their generation? Or, are children born with the capacity to think differently? Certainly, I don't know, and I doubt anyone could be sure of such a thing.

        Regardless, I agree completely that children should be exposed to "different" worlds. Whether it be out of their own natural curiosity, or maybe a little encouraging push from their parents.
    • Mar 21 2011: In response the the assertion that students are benefiting from public schools because they are learning to adapt:

      This appears to be little more than aside effect, which actually applies to a small number of dedicated students. If we wanted to teach adaptability, why would we not first and foremost offer courses in it? or at the very least discuss it explicitly? Rephrased: While it may be said that students are learning to adapt, the current method of teaching that (if it is intentional) is very inefficient.

      Similarly, it may be noted that a certain student at a certain university (whose name escapes me (I do apologize I found him on TED to be sure)) was sued for starting up a Facebook group that discussed the classes and how to succeed in them by way of discussing general test content. The student believed that since he was expected to know the material, it did not matter how he come to know it, so long as he truly understood it come test day. The school (university) countered with the fact that one of the things they try to teach is getting students to find information for themselves. If that is the case- why the * explicative* didn't the student know that that was the actual reason for his attending college? Is it simply assumed that after a life of going from class to class with the sole goal of getting an A that he as a college student will have a miraculous change of mindset?
    • Mar 23 2011: You say the current school system teaches students to adapt. I'd argue that this adaption it's teaching, is not how to survive the world, but how to survive school. Adapting here means exiting the educational system relatively unscathed.

      On the governmental note - Government is supposed to be unbiased and not push any agenda. Because public schooling is funded by the government, in can be argued that they are overstepping their boundaries. And, ultimately, I would argue that it isn't the government's *obligation* (though, it is currently their job), it relies on the individual to ensure their education - as it actually does in a great part of the nation where public schooling is just plain inadequate. The current system pushing the proper process of acquisition of knowledge (classroom, 9-5 hours, etc) rather than the actual acquisition of it itself (which means an autodidact's education is invalid everywhere).

      I'd like to end, though, on another note. I have, of course, benefited from institutionalized education. Which means I shouldn't bite the hand that feeds me. While I agree with you that the system can be beneficial, it could be so so much better than it is now and we should consider the fact our educational model hasn't changed an inch since the 1840's and 50's and the world was a much different place back then.
  • Mar 12 2011: There is value in the public school system/organized schooling. I know it has it has flaw, but organizations usually do, but they also have their strong points. School is where students start to gain their independence from their parents. Develop friendships with new people and learn. Students need learn the basics in all subject areas, but they also need room to explore and create. Some public classrooms only teach the basics in math, science, reading and writing, but others go above and beyond that and allow for exploration and creativity.
  • Mar 11 2011: Well, i think upto 10-11 yrs or class 4-5, children should not have books to carry nor any homework. children should just come in morning study, play, enjoys, till noon or so after lunch break and then may be an hour rest later tutorials which should be reviewed days work and pay extra attention towards children who need extra attention. by the time kids go home no work to be give. and families should stay together do there family stuff. Thou kids should have toys at home like puzzles, drawing, means creative stuff.
    By this way Family members' gonna have less stress towards kids eg. homework, next day review, etc. Kids gonna be having fun coz then they know school for study home is where people relax and have fun not like being in school 24*7.
    i believe age 10-12 is personal creative growth age where hobbies, creativeness, interests, is formed. So let kids live how they would like to live.
    And i believe that kids who have less pressure in there childhood be more creative and great achiever.
    thx for now.. gotta go tc be happy n live ur life n let others live there life without regrets
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    Mar 11 2011: Any school is great providing it is appropriate to the individual needs.
  • Mar 11 2011: School is simply left brain thinking. In order to be creative and successful in all areas of life is to use the whole brain.
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      Mar 12 2011: Does school *have* to be left-brain oriented, or do you think there are ways to include more "whole-brain" thinking in public schools?
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    Mar 11 2011: I think there are plenty of areas within formal, organized education that do work well, although not excellently, for the general public. However, I am not advocating for the current education standards, or an obliteration of such education, rather a reform of sorts.

    In light of that, I truly believe that education reform is not only a great idea, it is a necessary one. I believe this to be true, because as things like technology (i.e. personal computers and internet) grow, so too do the gaps between what information is accessible primarily through formal government-run education, and what someone is capable to finding online. Content availability is also a strong variable in this observation. TED is an excellent example of this. I (or anyone with internet access) can come here and learn about, and actively discuss, almost anything that is important or interesting to me (them), not to mention the ability to experience a plethora of views and opinions. This is something I did not get to experience during my formal education, where the information presented was very structured and controlled by a few select people that I will never meet. The basic idea here, is that as more access to information becomes available to the general public, I fear people's loyalty to the education system will begin to falter. An example of this observation is the newest education reform taking place in the US, called unschooling. At this time I can not offer a valid opinion in respect to this type of education, because of my lack of exposure and good information about it. That being said, I do believe my basic understanding of it makes it a good example of how advancements in technology is already providing a large amount of accurate information to the public, and this is only going to improve over time.

    Bottom line, technology grows daily, how much growing have education systems done?

    This is only one example of how education is in need of reform. There are many others.
    • Mar 11 2011: "This is something I did not get to experience during my formal education, where the information presented was very structured and controlled by a few select people that I will never meet." But Kait, how much would you be able to particpate in and enjoy TED today if you hadn't had that formal, disciplined education?
  • Mar 6 2011: I recently (at age 80) got involved with one of my sons in racing model sailing yachts. The machines are quite expensive ( more than a thousand dollars US when new) and have an open hatch, and a heavy lead keel, and the advice was to give them some buoyancy so that they couldn't sink in the local reservoir. Filling with solid material was not possible, because of the internal 'works'; lying in bed one night the idea of filling the one-and-a-half meter long hull with ping-pong balls came to me. How many would be needed? A math. question with a definite answer, and for a rough guess i could assume I would need several kilograms of buoyancy. I am pleased to say that I could estimate both that more than 100 would be needed, and that they would fit in the hull. (Hull now contains one gross of table=tennis balls). At a lower level, a man (or woman, sorry) might think of excavating or building up part of his garden (back yard) and it would be really useful to be able to estimate how many barrow loads, or tons, or truck-loads, of soil would be involved, as well as a man-hours figure.
    Maths/physics questions arise all the time.