TED Conversations

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 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.

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