Sarah Shewey

CEO/Founder, Happily


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How can we empower kids to reshape the education system? *A TEDActive Education Project Question*

The TEDActive Education Project will explore how children can make an impact on the education system. We hope to come out of this project with fresh ideas for ways kids can start an education revolution.

At TEDActive2011 in Palm Springs, an amazing group of individuals came together as a group to come up with a simple micro-action solution for empowering kids to be a part of the education reform conversations. After a quick 36 hour period of time, the team made a website that allows students to upload videos of their ideas on education reform.

You can empower a student to share their voice at

Also, please share your own ideas here, or by starting a new conversation tagged with TEDActiveEDU so we can all follow.

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    Apr 5 2011: I apologize in advance for any faux pas or slip of the tongue I happen to make. I'm kind of fond of the idea of trade schools. Having one next to each public school, will give kids, those who don't like school or can't get the hang of it and don't want to be there, a fighting chance in the real world. If a town is centered around a few oil refineries, like my own, then set up a trade school that teaches students to be welders, pipe fitters, brick layers, and every other job the refineries have to offer. The trade schools would be optional; the students would have the choice between public school and trade school. In my opinion, this system would be incredibly effective in solving the drop out rate problem states are facing and the unemployment rate. If a student will never use the information they are learning in school, then why teach it to him? Why force feed information to those who have no need for it? Instead of the one track plan where a student spends countless hours having, to said student, useless information crammed down his throat, that same student could opt to spend his high school career at a trade school learning skills that would earn them a job right out of high school and truly ensure their future.
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      Apr 5 2011: Do not apologize for a good idea, ever.

      A major fault of our present system is that we have all become completely focused on university entrance requirements. These are the cheapest courses to offer, so there's no big surprise why technical and vocational courses have disappeared.
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        Apr 5 2011: Casen has a great point,

        indeed our education also doesn't educate us on alternative choices besides go to college.... The ability to work your way to a union right after high school is a great thing! Being an electrician, plumber, working for a DPW, etc etc. The people of my local DPW start off at 22 hourly, one of the jobs is to pick up leaves during the spring until after fall.. then they are a snowplower or street cleaner.
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      Apr 9 2011: As an instructor at a technical college, I'm all for the idea of teaching people to be skilled craft-workers. But it's also fun in a kind of subversive way to help these students who "don't like school or can't get the hang of it" to open their minds to learning in ways they didn't think possible. Math and science comes alive when you get to see them both put to practical use!

      It's a shame that so many people destined for University do not even consider hands-on vocations because of an anti-intellectual perception. In America at least, vocational classes in high school have been a dumping ground for students with behavioral problems, and post-secondary vocational institutions often aren't seen as much better.
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      Apr 12 2011: You are correct Casen, about offering more trade schools as I have been an advocate for these for years; but besides we need to base them on some of the European methods where students are tracked in elementary school (often times having the same teacher so he/she really gets to know the student) and then given the chance to be successful in a school set for their needs. In the UK some even get to graduate from a tech school at age 16 and can enter the work force.....BUT the problem now is that there are so few jobs due to outsourcing and just poor economies that it is becoming a big problem for these teens. But besides this, Germany did the same thing, however the students were paid as apprentices until age 18. And going BACK in time with me, when I was in high school in Chicago, we had the choice of going to a tech school for engineers and that ilk or another tech school for those who wanted "hands on" careers like a car mechanic; then a business school (but mainly for women to be secretaries at that time) and then finally a regular high school where I went; and I know times were different, but I can only remember two students in my whole class who dropped out. But with all of that said, besides this, we need to just TOTALLY revamp our educational system, so we will not all further behind....and get rid of standardized testing and NCLB for they are not helping as well as to teach our students (and their parents) to value learning, for that is not done in this country.
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        Apr 17 2011: We have some great trade schools in Alberta, but somehow our culture has created a caste system based around education and time spent in school/college/university.
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    Mar 28 2011: Believing that kids have some mystical wisdom to guide their own future is magical thinking. Allow me some free association: When I think about the GE-designed Japanese nuclear plants approaching catastrophe, I think about the dean of Hollywood screenwriters - William Goldman's famous quote, " Nobody knows anything".

    When I was a kid in school I didn't know anything. I don't think kids know much of anything today. Empower a kid to reform education? I'd rather give them the keys to the van and a bag of weed.
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      Mar 28 2011: Hilarious Clay but, I disagree that even you knew nothing when you were a young person. Our youth are full of knowledge, they lack wisdom. I learn more from them than most adults walking around proselytizing in my community. What's that make me? Better yet, don't answer:)
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        Mar 28 2011: As you might guess, I don't believe in giving young people false praise to boost their egos. What can any kid possibly know about life? They have zero perspective. Recently a young teen told me (with authentic confidence) that "The Dark Knight" was the greatest movie every made. I smiled. I don't think he has seen over 50 movies.

        But my skepticism gets worse. Not only do children know much but neither do their parents. Most Americans fail grade school tests. Ariana Huffington recently administered the citizenship entry test to adult Americans. Most failed. But poll after poll, survey after survey since the 'dumbing down of America' began a generation ago has delivered the bad news that gets badder every year. (sic)

        Our entire television and advertising industry is aimed at teens and adults with teen sensibilities. TV has dumbed down. Look, I don't know lots of things. I'm as ignorant as anybody. The older I get, the more I understand how much I don't know. But I can tell you the first name of the British Monarch and I can find Spain on a map; I can name the Secretary of State and can name the river that separates the Lone Star State from ol Mexico. Yes, I can pass grade school tests, so I guess that puts me in an elite league.

        Children self-directing their education? No way. No joke.
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          Mar 28 2011: I'd agree with Clay's statement that kids should not self-direct their education. However, I do think that kids are capable, with guidance, to make insightful suggestions on how they can (and want to) learn. I wonder what those guiding principles could reasonably look like, and what would be the expected outcomes?
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          Mar 28 2011: I see your logic Clay but, do not share it. End of debate?
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          Apr 4 2011: Many of the innovators of the Technological Revolution are relatively young. Your statement that Americans are getting dumber is both false and demeaning. The number of technological innovations created by entrepreneurs 35 and younger is astounding. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, created the social media site when he was 20 years old. Google, Twitter, Myspace, and Linked In were all created by entrepreneurs 35 and younger. Many of them formulated their ideas while studying and collaborating with other individuals. Young people are capable of selling and marketing a product to a diverse consumer base. And, without them, the Technological Revolution would never be where it is currently.
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        Mar 29 2011: M.A., is there any way to measure the veracity of your statement, "I learn more from them than most adults waking around proselytizing in my community." ? Outcomes should be measurable if they are to serve any useful purpose.

        Do you believe that students (and many adults) understand the meaning of pure and practical knowledge?

        It would appear that the restructuring of education, as it is being discussed here, is that the only purposeful knowledge is practical knowledge. What needs to be known that can make a difference in my life at this moment or in the foreseeable future.

        It might be easier for young learners to appreciate how learning about or from social networks might impact their lives - making this learning interesting and important to them. It is another matter to justify the need for pure knowledge and why might this be beneficial.

        The practical application for this knowledge might come, or never come within a persons lifetime. Must we expect children to make huge leaps in logic and understanding as we deny them valuable knowledge and skills? This might not serve the vast majority of learners.

        Does this make pure knowledge interesting? Likely not for many. Would a young learner choose to eliminate this knowledge for his/her syllabus? Likely. Is pure knowledge important. Immensely.
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          Mar 29 2011: Hi again Eric, I spend most of my sixteen hour work days with people under 18. You will have to take my word that I learn tremendous amounts from them. No need to quantify my personal experiences (beyond existing public data), what good will that serve anyone?

          Might you define "pure knowledge" please?

          Many adult attitudes in my town toward children encompass "seen not, heard" and "spare the rod, spoil the child" ideologies. Some of our public systems still practice corporal punishment (I worked in one). What might you suppose that mentality does for a child's curiosity?


          Not much has changed since this link from 2008. It might help you get the gist for the public educational environment I speak of.

          Based on my time with thousands of young people from marginalized communities throughout the Western hemisphere, I don't think they spend much time contemplating the semantics of the term knowledge. The curiosity of young people (if not stifled by the community) does however call them to inquire, reflect and discover while many adults think they know it all. See

          Our globe's most valuable resource is our children. If we fail to nurture their curiosity through our most effective (or, ineffective) social tool then... "the death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment." - Robert Maynard Hutchins
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      Mar 29 2011: Clay, I hear you saying "kids can't guide themselves and no one else can guide them either". You stated "Believing that kids have some mystical wisdom to guide their own future is magical thinking" and "not only do children know much but neither do their parents" and quoted "nobody knows anything". That doesn't leave many people left with wisdom - mystical or not. As such, leaving it up to no one is tantamount to leaving it up to the kids themselves.

      I would rather provide a guided approach to letting them direct education than let them flounder (as they are doing in the current system). At some point, they need to take the reins anyway, why not guide them into that process?
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        Mar 30 2011: Drew, I believe that fewer and fewer Americans are knowledgeable and that very few can be called wise. I don't think that one person in a thousand is wise. I think wisdom is very rare. Where would children get the wisdom or knowledge or experience to guide their own education?

        Let me illustrate. I have no background in math but I never knew how much I didn't know about math until I scrolled through Sal Khan's Academy list of math courses. I was astounded at the subcategories that I'd never heard of. I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't even recognize the categories of simple arithmetic, to boot. The point is, I didn't know what I didn't know. Neither do children.

        Most agree that we have a broken educational system, but let's not allow the blind to lead the blind, and make matters worse. At this point, doing nothing is better than self-directed learning. I'll summarize our educational problem in three words: School is boring.
        Crushingly boring. If you can fix that, you'll have something.
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          Mar 30 2011: A lament educators oft express is that anyone who has ever been schooled believes they have achieved special insight in how the system should be structured.

          There is probably some truth in this.

          Schooling can be boring. The performance of any task we do could qualify for that label. For example, agriculture is a boring and tedious repetition of servile tasks. Farmers will rightfully challenge me on this assessment.

          Forgive my glibness on making this point but attempting to eliminate boredom, which is a human condition like say, happiness, would be something to behold. A formula that corporate executives of the world would dearly love to get their hands on. Imagine having all the labourers in a constant state of nirvana.

          Blissful intoxicated learning. Priceless.
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          Mar 30 2011: Clay, I agree that school can be boring. This is where child-directed education kicks in. I agree "I didn't know what I didn't know", but the first problem is schools are too focused on WHAT to learn rather than why.

          Its important to find out what interests kids and make that the "why". You find out by making them free and encouraged to drive the process. Let them run in that direction and THEN show them how math, science, and language relate.

          If a kid enjoys baseball, get into the math of the stats and why stats matter. Talk about the physics of why the ball is made like it is. What would happen if the ball was heavier? This is guiding them. It is not having them teach math to themselves. Get them interested first, then guide them through what "they didn't know".

          Student-lead systems encourage interest. Traditional schools miss this key piece, which is why they are boring.
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          Mar 31 2011: Clay, I have tried the Kahn Academy lessons too, I think it's a wonderfull initiative and even usefull for adults who want to brush up their skills, or learn new things.

          I didn't follow school in the USA, and the Belgian education system is quite different, but I have to agree on the 'school is boring' part.
          Where I disagree is that I don't think boredom is a bad thing. A lot of emphasis today is on keeping the kids 'entertained', providing them with stimuli from second to second. I think kids should be allowed to spend more time doing nothing. It is simply amazing what a kid can do with two standard lego-blocks if it's left to its own 'miserable imagination' for an hour, and sadening to see how (in Belgian schools at least), kids are reprimanded if they use toys in ways that are not apropriate (turning a wheelbarrow upside down to build 'a house', instead of wheeling it around like 'you're supposed to' for example). I think freedom is something that is very much needed. Discipline is also very much needed. Freedom and discipline are two things seemingly contradictory, but kids need a firm set of rules that form a framework in which they can freely explore. Kids need to be confronted with such rules, and parents and educators need to be adamant to enforce these rules. many schools don't have enough supervision, or methods to enforce rules, allowing things to escalate, and making guarding these rules more like repression than actually educating about boundries.
          Another problem in my country is the low esteem in which people hold educators. Teachers used to be 'the smartest person in the village'. Now, 'smart people' choose university degrees and don't end up in teaching apart from on a high acedemic level. Combined with the idea that 'all kids must be equal', this makes held back smart kids question not-so-smart decisions from their teachers. And talented pedagogues quickly suffer a mental breakdown having to confront bad teaching without support for good practices.
  • Apr 19 2011: Children should be inspired to teach; required to teach starting at a very young age; encouraged to teach throughout their lifetimes, the things that they have learned from our society and its schools. Students teaching students builds confidence and empathy with others at different stages of the learning process.
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      Apr 20 2011: Agreed! The best way to learn is by teaching. Kids at all levels should be teaching lessons to the kids a year younger the material they just learned. The job of the teacher would change from being just a teacher to being a coach and guide.
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        Apr 22 2011: Read this recent Harvard study on teaching and learning. For those not in the know, Harvard-based research is generally viewed as having moderate credibility within the academic community.

        Popular-held beliefs, without adequate inquiry into the veracity of said belief, will have consequences and can at times be damaging. However the broadcast of urban myths amongst the masses (all being brilliant, all of the time), is as remarkable as it is enduring.
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          Apr 28 2011: I don't disagree with the evidence you present. I interpret the article to say, "Teaching students facts through lecture style statistically produces better standardized test results than problem-solving." I agree with that statement. However, you are begging the question on two important points.

          First, you are assuming standardized tests are the best way to measure the goals of education. I disagree. Ken Robinson per his book, The Element, would also disagree with that assumption. Incidentally, the creator of the IQ standardized test strongly disapproved of its use in the way it is being used. ( )

          Second, you are assuming problem-solving is not an important end goal. I would argue quite the opposite. Isn't problem-solving one of THE most important skills someone could possess? In this day and age, a good problem-solver can find any facts they need. (This wasn't true in the early 1900's when data was not so readily available and memorizing facts was an important part of intelligence.) Also, problem-solving skills are critical for life-long-learning; facts and data points are not. In accordance with Outliers, the best way to become good at something is lot's of practice (10,000 hours at least, if I recall). So, the best way to become a better problem-solver is to do more problem-solving.

          Maybe another way to read the study you presented is "studies show that students are not being taught well to do problem-solving and need to be spoon-fed their information."

          Come up with a test for problem-solving ability and then show me the statistics of lecture-learning versus problem-solving.
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          Apr 29 2011: I don't disagree with the evidence you present. I interpret the article to say, "Teaching students facts through lecture style statistically produces better standardized test results than problem-solving." I agree with that statement. However, you are begging the question on two important points.

          First, you are assuming standardized tests are the best way to measure the goals of education. I disagree. Ken Robinson, per his book, The Element, would also disagree with that assumption. Incidentally, the creator of the IQ standardized test strongly disapproved of its use in the way it is being used.

          Second, you are assuming problem-solving is not an important end goal. I would argue quite the opposite. Isn't problem-solving one of the most important skills someone could possess? In this day and age, a good problem-solver can find any facts they need. (This wasn't true in the early 1900's when data was not so readily available and memorizing facts was an important part of intelligence.) Problem-solving is necessary for life-long learning; facts and data points are not. In accordance with the book Outliers, the best way to become good at something is lot's of practice (10,000 hours at least, if I recall). So, the best way to become a better problem-solver is to do more problem-solving.

          Develop a test for problem-solving ability and then show me the statistics of lecture learning versus problem-solving.
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          Apr 29 2011: As toddlers need both to grow/develop (imitate+explore), so do primary school kids, so do adults. In order to solve problems, a series of other skills are needed which you can only get through other ways of learning.

          Some schools of thought say there are numerous mental skills to train, some come to a list of 30, some to 8. I belong for now to the '8' believers, as to get a grip on those is more than enough as a starter :) Problem Solving is one of them as a very conscious activity, though highly relying on equally important other mental skills.
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        Apr 29 2011: What is being presented in this Harvard research is that the lecture method has a place. There is a thread of understanding here that views lecture-style teaching as a pariah.

        Problem-solving is another viable teaching methodology, and so on and so on. Let's not succumb to the wearing of blinders when it comes to learning and teaching.

        Speaking of blinders, the most oft referenced speaker on the topic here is Mr. Robinson. Does anyone know another's opinion on the subject? Or is he going to be our prophet? If so, sure hope he's right and what will we do once his views fall out of fashion? He too lives with a shelf-life.
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          Apr 29 2011: I guess a lot of us are happy finally put's in good words our children are in trouble.

          All we need now is somebody to stand up and tell us which learning environment has least flaws to build upon.
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          May 2 2011: Here is another person for you, Nicolas Carr. In his book The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains, he provides indications that the brains of people today, particularly youth, are different than brains of a century ago and even a decade ago. How much of the current research supports teaching to this new type of brain? Certainly is not texts from 1970 or 1980. What is education doing to address a different type of learner?

          Related to that point, I would argue that many forms of "research-proven" ideas have a shelf life as much as Ken Robinson.
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        Apr 29 2011: You mean this is the first time some here have realized there are issues? Well, good for that, but this is not news. Now what usually happens is a frenzied debate which aims to find an immediate and lasting solution. The age of enlightenment begins yet again.

        This is often glibly referred to as seeking the "silver bullet" solution.

        Guess what? Calm down, it's not going to happen that way and that quickly. The evolution and revolution of education and educational trends has never ceased. Dare I say, "We didn't light the fire?" Sure, this is your time we're living here, but it doesn't mean everything meaningful happens within your life-time.

        I have over 70 years of educational research and writings on these very topics sitting on the shelves just to my right. Admittedly my research has been largely limited to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

        Interesting though how radio, then telephone and then television was going to revolutionize teaching and learning. Never before had students been so instantly and globally connected. Come to think of it, the Gutenberg printing press, circa 1450, had quite an impact on teaching and learning as well.

        How much time did you say we had?
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          Apr 30 2011: I appreciate your effort in giving structural thought a lot, thank you for that.

          Ken Robinson is not the first, though he puts Facts + Society development over time + a sense of humor together in an empowering way. The facts were not new to me, though quoting him to 'financers' helps me to create space and time to spend time in looking for what 'organic education' might be.

          I have hope we find parts of the puzzle for next generation kids, as currently they are in trouble. Old school, new school, ipads or play doh, it's whatever for me as long the orchestra get's it's act together to challenge the minds of the future.

          I am pleased to read you have 70 years of research looking over your shoulders. Which of your writings should I read to have a little bit of a picture which methods over this time actually work(ed) well (and are affordable).

          A challenging idea;

          With the idea industrial revolution is 'over', so finance for it's educational system is 'over', (the hard facts we see in Dutch primary school cutbacks, it becomes impossible to keep a school running). So we should look at learning 'before' this time and learning by cultures who did not have the industrial public system.
          Though we also need insights in the best of this age, as we are not going to live in the jungle all together. Learning from different cultures might give us 'westies' insight in where we should go in 'growing' our children.

          Time... the optimist in me says 4 years, as my own kid will go to school than. Though as you said, it is an ongoing process.

          I guess I follow Larry Page from google his speech;"If enough people work on a certain problem, solutions will arise. The question is, are enough different people involved already to really improve education...
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        Apr 30 2011: Paul, here are a few articulate authors of the subject of education, learning, teaching and change leadership:

        Michael Fullan
        Mary John O'Hair
        Sandra Odell
        Carl Glickman
        Theodore Kowalski
        Jo & Joseph Blase
        T. J. Sergiovanni
        Roland Barth
        Rebecca & Richard Dufour
        Robert Eaker
        Warren Bennis
        Bert Nanus
        James Kouzes
        Barry Posner
        William Glasser

        This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive reading list...just a fairly good beginning. Tell me, are you really committed to learning about this?

        Education funding is inadequate, however I do know that in total spending at the state/provincial level, education falls just behind health. These two budget expenditures account for over 70% of total available revenue.

        In one of Canada's coastal provinces (2010 Winter Olympics) we worked with a $4.65 billion operating budget for education and this was not nearly enough. This is Ministry information, but is not confidential. Otherwise, if I told you this, I would have to...... *joke*
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          May 1 2011: Thanks for the list, great these are people 'google' normally does not find. And happy to see they are not just for the sake of understanding a challenge though also working hard to do something for real.

          Yes, I am really committed, what else is more important? There are many topics on this TED I read with enthousiasm and each time it boils down to me that the soil we raise our children on is poor and I don't see many people coming with possible solutions for the next 10-15 years.

          My current angle; Children have the right to learn, though what if the language of teaching can no longer be understood by it’s pupils? What right can you practice?

          In a way we can teach our kids to sue 'us' on humanitarian grounds :) Ofcourse, that would only be useful if 'a better alternative' would be kept away from them, and this is not the case. And there is the mystery which keeps me focused; almost all revolutions in history took place because some people in power kept us from an alternative. Currently we gaze in the dark as there is no vision on what could lies beyond tomorrow. Is it the China method to combine the best of accepted dictatorship and free market forces?


          On education budget spending, I don't know in Canada, though in the Netherlands if you do not each year spend more than you have you are cut-off the difference the year after. Spending exactly what you get looks like you spend all on purpose though you could have saved some. So there is always shortage in this system. A game which also needs improvement.

          I am currently in the 'trap' of academic research; how to deal with the amount of available information and prevent myself to come in 3 years with my own 20 lines summary conclusion. On the other hand, valorization of methods is needed because we can't throw a generation in an experiment, and after 8 years we tell them; "oops, the method didn't really work... sorry... have a nice life.."
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          May 2 2011: To Paul's earlier point, not only how do we make education successful, but how do we do it in an affordable manner? You mention the money for education "was not nearly enough". I can tell you it won't get better. In other words, the ideas these experts may be great, but apparently, they are not affordable. So, what are ways to improve education in the real world where money is limited?

          Regarding the books, while I want to learn more, I admit I don't want to spend 70 years reading before I begin making a difference. Rather, I would like for someone who has read all the books AND understands the current environment to give me actionable tasks that I can do to help. It is people like Paul and me that can make it affordable, but the scholars have to give us actionable tasks AND be willing to take our assistance.
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          May 2 2011: Does not every person who seriously starts developing educational material talk to people who know the research? And talk to publishers and to schools etc. And mostly believe in own conclusions, supported by people who know all research and start designing solutions. Though why do the methods often not work or are poor if at start everything looks so well thought through?

          All the fields involved in education methods (and that's a lot of specialities!) speak their own language on their own island.

          So collaboration and 'knowing' sounds nice in theory and EU r&d heavy invested in this last decade, though conclusion is, these initiatives a lot of times don't get to the promised results. As far as I can see, teams get stuck in a maze of misunderstandings, interpretations, different vocabulary meanings between disciplines, even among direct colleagues. The team of 'specialists' is so diverse, nobody really understands eachother and what is really needed for education development. This sounds extreme, but a lot of time is wasted everywhere on every (organization/government) level to try to understand the meaning of words in eachothers context/expertise.

          To cut a long story short, conclusion is what needs to be done is to create a common language among research specialists, design guru's, teachers and parents to communicate about 'growing' children. The basics. Actually writing down in 'Elmo language' essence of learning+thinking skills+educational challenges. The story which comes up should be understandable by 9 year olds and 99 year olds. After that period, we can start throwing in our field/research/design/business specific thoughts again.

          This 'elmo language' method has it's roots in transition management, and when applied well, the 3 c's communication, collaboration and continuity starts of on a much higher level.
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      Apr 30 2011: Go a step deeper, Creola - break out of the age box entirely. Have the students who are better at a particular thing teach someone who is struggling, and help the "teacher" with different ways of teaching. The tables will inevitably be turned in one way or another as the "struggling" student progresses in that or other areas and the "teaching" student has their own struggles. Now you're teaching more than just "math", you're teaching psychology, group dynamics, interpersonal skills, building confidence, combating "age = wisdom" myths, oh and also reinforcing the "math" understanding of the "teacher" as they work through different ways of understanding the information than just the one that worked for them.
  • Apr 20 2011: Our entire education system is based on text. Text has been the standard for codifying knowledge for millennia. We now have alternatives for recording and transferring knowledge. The human brain does not deal exclusively with text, not even optimally with it.

    A great gauge of the effectiveness of an educational method is the level of engagement by students, i.e., how interested or even excited they are to learn. We have the means to make education much more interesting, relevant, and effective.

    I have no sympathy for the old-school mentality that believes that there is no progress without educational pain. Those who think that empowering our kids to reshape education is a dangerous idea have no evidence for that view. We run our primary and secondary schools as totalitarian institutions in which students have no rights. After 12 or more years of indoctrination that they are subordinate, dependent, and mostly wrong, and we expect them to participate in a democracy. If that's not hypocritical, I don't know what is.
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      Apr 24 2011: I have no sympathy for this system either.

      With the decline of the industrial revolution...

      I think that every industry will be affected and weakened.

      Whatever kind of education is an industry and should be replaced or at least reshaped.

      It's before this 12-year long brainwashing process that action must be taken.

      We may have knowledge, but kids have creativity and hunger to learn...
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        Apr 24 2011: You are right, the present system is not adequate. Universities state that a large number of their present students are unfit and unqualified to be there. So why do they accept them? Cuts to research budgets can be covered via student tuition. Simple and sad reflection on society.

        Academic rigor is being severely compromised to address the grossly inflated grades of our school system students. A degree is becoming near worthless as a result, however the number of degrees granted has risen sharply. Technical/vocational/trade institution admission departments reject university graduate applications as they do not meet entrance standards for their non-degree programs.

        We have a growing number of disillusioned young people who, after 12 years of being told they are bright, suddenly discover they are indeed not. This is an unnecessary, unkind and entirely too costly a lesson to be learned at this point in their lives.
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      Apr 24 2011: If you're talking democracy as we have known it, then the schooling system from last century works perfectly.

      Being wrong is one half (conservative estimate) of taking risks.

      It's not a dangerous idea to empower kids but to imagine that kids don't need guidance in their learning is possibly a dangerous idea (for the wellbeing of the individual student/child).

      Agreed that student engagement is the only thing that is really worth measuring but an idea, activity, or skill consolidation doesn't have to be 'interesting' to be worthwhile.

      My nana says that hardship is good character building. I disagree with the 'another brick in the wall" approach to teaching and learning but sometimes, you have to do stuff that doesn't engage you and often, it requires a 'push' from someone else. That ain't a bad thing.
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    Apr 19 2011: The cookie cutter educational curriculum must be abolished in favor of unorthodox, creativity inspiring programs. An immersion into nature, lessons in spiritual principles and a deeper view of worthy history.

    Child like qualities are the foremost innocent and attractive qualities in the human spirit. Separation is a common problem and acceptance of diversity should be taught and practiced. Challenge Day is a terrific program that could be rendered unnecessary if the educators can get it right from the beginning. If children are taught from an early age that they can make a difference in the world they live in with simple actions, their inspiration will increase. If they are encouraged to follow their bliss instead of discouraging against what they strive for, development will be more astute.
    • Apr 20 2011: I completely agree. In fact, I am leaving my job at the end of this school year (I teach 9th grade world history and have taught for more than a decade) to plan a middle school where students can take charge of their own learning. See

      As comments below reflect, though, students should not be left to their own devices. They need to be mentored. However, I also agree that students should be respected far more than the industrial-age school curricula currently respects students.

      The idea for my school is to mentor students for 6th and 7th grade to give them skills and confidence so that they can direct their own learning in 8th grade to follow their passion and make a difference in the world.

      I'm also shocked at how little students today follow the news (Egypt was simply not part of the curriculum), so that will be a key part of the daily routine. Students also need to appreciate that math is everywhere (economics, science, statistics, etc.) and need to learn as much math as possible.

      If this sounds interesting, please contact me. My contact information is on my TED profile.
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    Apr 12 2011: Allowing kids to take ownership and practice self reliant behaviors is perhaps the first step engaging learners....Is the next step co-creating a curriculum?
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      Apr 13 2011: Yes,i strongly believe it is.
      You can't teach an old dog new tricks,but you can teach old tricks to a young dog.
    • Apr 14 2011: Yes! As a high school senior, I can attest to this--education has to be more personalized, and kids should feel like they're investing in their education rather than working through a dictat.

      It is absolutely imperative to begin this process at a young age. From my experience of going through the public school system in Canada, kids are naturally creative, innovative, and curious people--if anything, I think the emphasis should be on developing a method that can teach children 'the necessities' while still allowing a great deal of space for children to pursue their interests. This reminds me of the Montessori system, which purportedly has generated good results in kids and youth who have attended the program.

      The focus on totally linear academic learning in most public schools has generated quite a few ridiculous circumstances in my personal past. The fact that children are assessed on how 'creative' an art project is or how neatly they've coloured within the lines should definitely be raising eyebrows! Kids are taught from the very beginning that there is only one right, linear way to do things and to not even consider other approaches to problems. If this is how the system works, where rote, monotonous learning is continually perpetuated and creative learning/teaching is almost non-existent, it is unsurprising that the apathy rate in students is so high.

      Kids fundamentally want to be engaged and in charge of their work! The prevalent education-in-a-box paradigm, however, has to be changed in order for that to happen. Learning should be a co-operative process that emphasizes creative development equally, if not more so, as much as the academic subjects.
  • Apr 11 2011: I teach middle school math and science. Basic ways to empower students and take a see-for-yourself approach:
    1. Create a blog via (closed and protected system). The teacher poses the question. The students then comment on the question. Students begin to observe each other's comments, reflect, and then comment a revised or even new answer. It is evident that after reading each other's thoughts, their own thoughts become "deeper" and more reflective. Thats an amplifier.

    2. Give students a topic and break them into groups of 3-4. Tell them to go find the most important points about that topic and ask them to share their findings via a wiki build-out on RESIST the urge to go in and direct too much. Let them create. THEN, come back as a large group and review what they have put together. Have groups professionally critique each other. Have them observe. THEN, do it again with a different topic. Watch how the second build-out is amplified...increasing quality, increasing effort, overall increased performance.

    MY POINT IS THIS: Old-school/industrial educated people like me do not believe this stuff until they see it for themselves. ALSO, stop trying to progress ALL students at the same pace......some will excel...some will slack and ride on coat tails.....thats the way our world currently works. HOWEVER, those students you felt were slackers more often than not impress the hell out of you. Be bold, Break rules, Don't spend too much time trying to convince skeptics. They are now called baggage.
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      Apr 12 2011: Well said, Scott! It's amazing what students can and will do when you stop lecturing to them and place them into active-thinking scenarios.
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    Apr 9 2011: If you want students to have a positive voice in education, they must also have a realistic perspective of the value of education. Asking students to help reform education when they do not yet have a firm grasp on how their education can, will, or should empower their lives as adults is unlikely to yield much benefit.

    However . . . structuring education in ways that place young students in age-appropriate roles of responsibility, where success and failure is more than just a letter-mark on paper but has real, tangible consequences, would go a long way toward educating them for life.

    A model that immediately comes to mind is that of a child growing up on a farm, where they are given responsibility for doing important tasks, among them caring for living things. Something as simple as this is a tremendous learning experience for a young person. Managing real money at a young age is another model for helping children gain perspective and value the importance of subjects such as math.
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      Apr 17 2011: I agree with you Tony. In my view our failure to involve our children and youth in authentic and meaningful responsibilities is the underlying problem. To solve this we give them all sorts of courses to try to replace that involvement. This adds years and years to their "education", without connecting them to the environment where they will put their knowledge and skills to use. Because they are not allowed to participate in a meaningful way they find what we want them to learn meaningless, and many just slough it off and find their own way. This situation continues right through university - if the post secondary schools keep adding courses to what students have to learn to graduate, pretty soon our graduates will be senior citizens before they are put to work.
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    Mar 24 2011: Like the project highlights we must create spaces and processes in which children are able to contribute and develop the skills to lead their own learning. Empowerment can happen at home, at school, and on larger scales. But most importantly, children need to see close effects of their voices. If I child uploads a video and says, "if it were up to me, learning would happen like _____" and all that happens is the child now has a video on youtube, over time, hope for change and good intentions will not be enough.

    There have to be physical spaces and processes that the child is involved in, on a daily basis, where they are heard, respected, and wisely guided by caring adults. There are models out there already, adults just keep getting in the way.
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    Mar 24 2011: Sarah,
    I fell upon TEDActive2011 site yesterday. There is much potential there. Lots of great ideas (social networking/education/microaction)!

    The young people within my organization look forward to this challenge.

    It will be amazing to witness the young take ownership of this learning revolution!
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    May 11 2011: The multiplicity of ideas on this question demonstrates why education in America continues its slow descent into chaos. Is there any single point above upon which all are agreed? I didn't catch it if there is. I've gone round and round countless times in debates over school reform.

    I will venture a statement that I feel is totally defensible. And may I be so bold to suggest that if you don't agree with this statement, you just haven't thought it through:

    "Education will never become the central function of our school system until we do away with grades and grade levels."
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    Apr 21 2011: We need to embed student voice into how we make education decisions--educational service districts, school boards, lobbying organizations. For a start, why aren't there more students responding to this question? :) I often find myself being the only person under 25 at many of the education conferences which I attend. We need to start asking students about questions like project-based learning, balance of old-school vs. "new-school" methods, etc., instead of just presenting viewpoints saying "This is best for students" without getting any input from students themselves.

    I really appreciate what the education ministry of Ontario is doing with student voice through its Speakup project: --getting young people to actually contribute their ideas and feedback to the officials in charge. More and more organizations are becoming aware of the importance of student voice. I was lucky enough to write a blog for the Huffington Post on some large and small steps I think schools should take:

    Social networking--Facebook especially--can provide an excellent way to gauge opinions on new changes and proposed ideas. Asking quick short questions, for instance, and getting responses. A lot of my peers aren't on Twitter, but definitely love Facebook.

    It starts with simple questions: what would you change about your school? What are you interested in learning? How do you learn best? If you were the teacher/principal/Secretary of Education, what steps would you take? At the all-youth organized and attended TEDxRedmond conference, which I'm organizing for the second time this year, we hear from speakers who are all under 18 about their opinions on a range of diverse issues like these (and others). Through mediums like TED Conversations, TEDx conferences, and school governance boards, I hope to see more students getting involved in education change.
    • Apr 21 2011: Hi Adora. I wonder if students are as conscious of the education process as you are. They will only recommend cosmetic changes to the schooling system, which will not bring about any substantial change and not deal with the pathologies that beset this system. Being a teacher I gave my students many alternative ideas, but only a handful responded. Others only thought about cosmetic changes to the schooling system. Like it or not, most of humanity conforms. Just because something is there, they feel inclined to consider it legitimate, and any changes to that order of things brings about anxiety.
      There is a great book by Eric Fromm which talks about this: Fear of Freedom.
      • May 6 2011: True, true as a high school teacher I see this too. Perhaps students would first think of cosmetic changes to the educational system, ones that they could easily discuss without risk of adult censure or peer embarassment. If there was a permanent virtual or physical "suggestion box" I bet that the average intensity of student suggestions would increase. A common class president platform is changing the length of the lunch period, however, students have a hyper sense of fairness and very strong feelings on a variety of subjects. Like most behaviors, learning to speak up and provide input is one that will need encouragement and which may even have to be taught explicitly
      • May 6 2011: I am a current student in the Dutch schooling system, although currently in my last year and almost finished. Three years ago I started doing research on the topic of education, because I felt like the way our educational system worked was wrong.
        Now I realize that there aren't many students that know and are capable of participating in that discussion with sufficient background knowledge, but I also know that they do exist. I have heard so many times that I cannot, may not and should not try to participate in debates on topics like these because of my age. In the meantime I see students around me that are suffering, literally suffering under the influence of bad education, including myself. I love to learn, but I have spend the last 6 years of my life working really hard to learn so little. I know that would I have been allowed to create my own way of educating 'me', I would have been capable of learning a lot more, both factual knowledge and 'skills'. School is not 'too hard', it's just not capable of challenging students. It frustrates me that I do not have enough time to learn as much as I could and want to because of school, the institution that should be learning me stuff. If I could, I would do anything to change the system. Not just make amends, 'cosmetic changes', but really change something, change the core. But if I am not allowed or if people do not want me to participate in the discussion, it becomes very hard for me to either try to make changes or even learn more about the subject.
        To answer your question: yes, these students do exist. So before you exclude them from the debate, reconsider your premise that they do not want to. Maybe you ust need to find a way to interest them, to show them that they can make a change, that their opinion is actually valued, in contrary to what they get told or shown in schools everyday!
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      Apr 21 2011: Maybe more students aren't responding to this question because it's not being asked in a place where more students will see it. TED's great, but I think you're the exception to the TEDster rule, Adora. Most people having this conversation are out of school, or at least out of high school. If you want student engagement, then the conversation needs to be brought to the students - not just the ones we think will agree, but students who've never been given the opportunity to think about it before.

      I also think that as long as we continue to talk about "reforming the *education system*" instead of looking at new ways to understand the *learning process," nothing is going to change. The problem with the education system is just that - it's a "system." We don't learn in systems. We learn from practice, from experiences, from one another.
      • May 8 2011: And there in a nutshell is the answer, thanks Theresa :)
        I believe that allowing young people to participate in their own platform where they can exchange their own ideas will foster 'crowd induced innovation' of these ideas whatever the area of interest being discussed in a group. In an online scenario like this the cream will rise and support will garner around certain notions of percieved fairness, improvement and so on. The problem so often seems to be that education fails to educate and students have no voice, still labouring under the victorian era's ageistic perception that 'children should be seen and not heard'.
        Young minds, as older minds, order information as a basic function. The information comes from the outside and so to expect them to have opinions that resonate with our informed and lofty ideas is somewhat short sighted. we need to value the contribution as it is made, making an effort to translate it into our own terms.
        As for 'new ways to understand the learning process'...just how many ideas about education do we need before implementration of what is blazingly obvious. Children at home playing computer games are not stimulated by current modes of education. The teacher must become the conduit of information, not the source, and children should be educated through those means by which they percieve the world. Sticking to the intellect as the primary focus of education is ridiculable.
        I remember when I finally learned how to learn in an event where it suddenly became clear to me (autodidactically) that I could create something, picture an outcome and work towards it, this was an actual experience of creativity without being told to create. How the education system had failed after 17 years in teaching me this I am at a loss to explain. More likely the case is closer to Ken Robinson's assertion that we have this creativity naturally but are educated out of it.
        We also need community integration as part of education...
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    Apr 20 2011: The following parent organization (see link) collects and distributes information concerning quality education. These are parents and some now grand-parents of children who have had a difficult time in school. It would appear they have a number of credible organizations listed as patrons.

    This parent group (SQE) now rejects the child-centered approach to education. Read some of the research on this to find out the reasons why they see this "fad" (their term) as a failure.

    Here is a book available from the SQE library," Doomed to Fail: The Built-In Defects of American Education" by Paul A. Zoch (Houston, TX teacher). Executive Summary: This book zeroes in on an aspect of child-centred learning that may not have occurred to many people. Because the child-centred philosophy calls for learning to be easy and fun, students are freed from the need to work hard to meet high standards. In child-centred classrooms, the primary responsibility for learning falls on teachers, not on students. In some cases, the teachers work harder for the students' success than the students themselves do.

    SQE even suggests that parents either withdraw their child from the public schools that practice the child-centered approach or that parents offset this exposure from as early an age as possible through other privately operated learning institutions. Such institutions are Oxford Learning or Kumon to mention only two.

    Their reasons?

    These private learning institutions utilize something that is now absent from public schools called direct instruction (traditional).

    Fascinating stuff.

    There is also a critical look at how universities are failing us and why students in programs for the past 25 years (coincidently coincides with child-centered learning) are just not up to standard. Some of these substandard grads, the professors (authors) claim, are now teachers. Ouch!
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    Apr 20 2011: How many of you have or live close to a toddler of 1-2-3 years old with full iPad access? I have a toddler of 2, and he is bored of 20 pieces puzzle games, angry birds, memory, the smurfs, and many other aim and click apps. I dig in the app store, though don't find anything worth getting for him.

    The question is; can we as adults/designers live up to their eager of learning through play or we stand in the myst soon when the kids realize we didn't design interesting/'good' learning 'toys' for them.

    Therefore, as young adults, we should (1) start listening very carefully to their 'dreams' (2) collect them and start making the tools (digital or real) to help them live their dreams. Anybody doing this already?
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        Apr 26 2011: Thanks Mark, it's fun to discover the 'global village' on a theme is existing through English language. And to 'spread' a little humble idea between heroic tedsters. Though to follow up, where to start... I guess figuring out a way to connect parents with same worries and surely there must be people among them designing professionally iPad apps and physical learning 'tools' like Annmarie Thomas and .
  • Apr 8 2011: kids already have too much power but not the accountability that goes with it - empowering them to reshape the education system is like asking them what they want to eat........
    Some how an overdose of 'chocolate' based edcuation does not feel like a good idea......
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      Apr 8 2011: Denying children guidance and direction in something as important as this would be comparable to neglect and abuse. Hopefully no one is advocating children have authority in decision-making.

      We don't allow children to vote. Now, why is that?
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        Tao P

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        Apr 10 2011: I like your thinking Mercer, lets get over our ageist ways. Give children the respect you hope they will grow to earn instead of ridiculing them.

        I think we can vastly improve education by giving children more choice in what they want to learn. A child who loves horses is much more likely to enjoy reading books on horses.
        We should also get rid of almost all tests and quizzes. I feel there is far too much judgment of children in schools today.

        @Andrew: Young children know, when given a choice, of how much and what kinds of food they require. It is only after years of being told to 'finish your plate' 'eat this as it's good for you' and refined sugar addiction that they lose this ability.
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          Apr 16 2011: Really Mark, we're now resorting to idiomatic expressions? How refreshingly original. Are you suggesting that we have the blind lead the blind? That we walk a mile in someone's shoes?

          Sorry, really don't want to put you between a rock and a hard place.
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          Apr 17 2011: OK, fair enough.

          Does something need to change? Absolutely. But it's complicated.

          Question: Know what's being demanded by a large and growing number of parents in Canada? Parents who will line up for days in order to enroll their child in this particular type of school? Parents who will daily drive their child across and into town in order that they may attend these schools?

          Answer: Traditional Schools. Schools that focus on the 3 Rs, where students dutifully read, write and do arithmetic. Where the teacher lectures and gives homework. We have countless requests to open more of these schools. We cannot meet the demand.

          How odd is that?

          It's not that something needs to change. Everything needs to change, all the time. Now we find if only we had not been so diligent in dismantling and reorganizing schools, we could have saved a ton of money and been on the cutting edge of learning. Well, at least what the public believes anyway.

          Who knew?

          Background: Canada is rapidly transforming into a country of non-European stock. With this comes a change in how things are and will be run. People of European descent in Canada must acknowledge and accept that things won't always be done exactly how they want it. Including how we educate our children.

          Someone always finds change harder. Particularly ones who sense they are losing or in danger of falling behind.
    • Apr 9 2011: I really don't see the problem with empowering children to reshape the system as long as there is guidance. It is wrong to ask a kid what to eat only of they do not know what is good for them to eat.
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        Apr 9 2011: The entire system is already under the control of non-professionals.

        There are state and/or provincial politicians leading the way who feel unfortunate to be handed the education portfolio. Add to this layers of junior starter politicians at the district board and local board levels who bring their own agendas that are not pedagogically sound.

        This makes for some very interesting dynamics indeed. Messes always have to be cleaned up after their play at teaching party is over and before the next tour bus arrives. Adding children to the equation should prove interesting.

        The perception that meeting the educational needs and demands of society is simple and can be done from an armchair and the "Hey, how could it possibly be any worse" attitude displays arrogance; is dangerous and insulting.

        But you know, you are right, it would be better to have uninformed children rather than ignorant adults involved. Learning really cannot afford both.
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          Apr 10 2011: Given your comments, I would appreciate any feedback to what a non-professional CAN do to help.
        • Apr 15 2011: "The entire system is already under the control of non-professionals."
          Funny from what I've seen from most Home Schooled children, I'd say the "professionals" are the problem. A 1997 study showed that "Home school children... out-performed their counterparts in the public schools by 30 to 37 percentile points in all subjects" And now, in 2010, "The average home schooled 8th grade student performs four grade levels above the national average." Home Schooling parents don't require a degree, they are "non-professions" and their solutions are more kitchen chair than armchair. Perhaps we should begin really looking at these bright spots, of the freedoms these children have.

          Odd when I talk to the "professionals" about the fact we are considering homeschooling our child, the response we always get is negative. "They won't get the same education," and "they'll be less socialized" despite none of them offering statical evidence of the supposed effects.

          We do lots of stats on children's performance, and measure school, state and countries performance; but, I have never seen a letters sent to the parents showing what a given teacher's graduation rate is, or how their students truly perform at real world skills.

          "[I]t would be better to have uninformed children rather than ignorant adults involved."
          Yes, it would be. Fire ineffective teachers; but you can't the union won't let you. Moreover, my political views and basic belief structure (except religious beliefs) has remained mostly the same since I was about 12 or 14, I won't say I've made all the right choices since then, Lord knows I haven't, but I was more politically aware about current events at 14 than most adults. We see cases like Sirena Huang, a talented articulate 11-year old and we think they are the exception, yes her musical talent makes her an outlier; but, maybe she isn't as rare as we think. Maybe we are stripping children of their potential by an outdated educational model.
        • Apr 26 2011: Yes, home schooled children do very well. It's called one-on-one. Give me one student all day, and I will create the stats you suggest. Give me a classroom of 30 - 40, throw in a few behaviorally challenged kiddos, and the class takes a spiral. Let me know how you would like to select the ineffective teachers--by using standardized tests? Please don't hold the teacher accountable for a score on a standardized test when the students have no accountability regarding his/her performance. I agree that we are stripping the children's potential in areas like music. No money equals no music, art, etc. I can tell what people in this country really think about the children's education--follow the money. We continue to cut back funds for our children's education. If we truly thought our children were important, we'd be "putting our money where our mouth is." I really don't like talking about teaching with people who aren't teachers. I don't understand how someone who hasn't been trained to teach and has no idea what it's like in a contemporary classroom has the thought that he/she knows what to do to fix education.
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          May 9 2011: Witness the concerted effort by the Minister of Education to (please excuse my passionate use of the vernacular) piss all over a world-class education system (little old New Zealand).

          Despite the fact that many countries are now looking for alternatives to standardised assessment, Anne Tolley (minister of education) has enforced a return to it for all NZ schools.

          She is unqualified in all the wrong places.
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        Apr 15 2011: Part of my responsibility is to evaluate and approve home schooled programs. If parents wish their child to receive course credits, the program must be approved by a school district.

        Of the 180 home schooled programs registered with me, I'd agree that about 1/3 of them are of very good to high quality. I would place my own children into these programs. About 2/3 are below average to awful.

        I am interested in where you gained access to this quantifiable student assessment data. Is this data from a reliable source?
    • Apr 14 2011: That's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy don't you think? An initial step would be to avoid talking down to kids. After all, if you treat them as if they're irresponsible, they will almost inevitably turn out that way. You mention than children do not know what is good for them, but perhaps it's the adults who have forgotten what education truly should embody. Kids want to be intellectually stimulated in an interesting way. However, much of school work is can hardly expect children to have a love of learning if they've already been exposed to years of the grind.
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        Apr 15 2011: Most of these (both Bryan's and Sheway's) arguments hinge on the presumption that children can be reasoned with. This is, in fact, an epidemic that has also invaded modern parenting. "Ask the kids what they want and give it to them. How could they be wrong?"

        Kids aren't reasonable. Biologically, emotionally, and cognitively they are not mature enough to make rational decisions. Using the chocolate analogy, no child would eat all chocolate forever, but they WOULD just eat what they want and when they want to. They have no impulse control. Even when they DO reach a stage of cognitive maturity, they don't just automatically know what is best for education. It needs to be studied and looked at through many different lenses which can take a person well beyond their 40's to even begin to understand what needs to be done. There are adults right now who don't know what's best for education they just say they do because every other adult has ideas so why shouldn't they.

        The issue is two sided: You can't ask the children because they will want what is best for them at the time instead of in the long run and you can't ask the adults because they either 1) Are business men who already run the school like a business instead of an educational institution or 2) Don't have the slightest idea of how children learn and what kind of techniques can jive with that.

        I'm not saying I personally have the answers, but I'm also saying that kids are the wrong people to ask on this subject. Proper course of action at this point would be to wait until America gets politicians that don't lobby but care, then sit a group of intuitive and far-minded educators in a room and have a debate to restructure the whole thing. Think Plato's "Republic," but for education instead of government.
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          Apr 15 2011: Respectively, there are people here who have no idea what a child is capable of expressing, in terms of thought, reasoning and problem-solving. How could they? For your consideration, the logical, abstract stage does not begin to arrive until at least the teen years. This ability is known as the Formal Operational Stage.

          A great many children experience delayed development for a great number of reasons. I would not normally use the term 'delayed' as every child develops at their own rate, but I will allow its use in order to clarify matters in the simplest of terms. They continue to exist in the trial and error (concrete) environment and never fully reach the formal operational stage until well into their twenties.

          What you will find is expressions and opinions acquired via rote learning, probably from parents and older siblings. Children are not able to develop their own critiques, other than common likes and dislikes pertaining to their own comforts. The child's world and interest is geared to the immediate and personal. The broader, larger, abstract world of learning, with all its interlinked relationships, begins to emerge later.

          Students will express frustration and say "Why are we learning this stuff?" as they cannot yet 'connect the dots' on these more complex, abstract relationships and concepts. Some adults are unable to ever understand these.

          So, this formal operational stage begins at approximately age twelve and lasts into adulthood. During this time, people develop the ability to think about abstract concepts. Skills such as logical thought, deductive reasoning, and systematic planning also begin to emerge during this stage. The C & I learning experience (Curriculum & Instruction) is tailored and designed to account for these various levels of cognition.

          Bantering about lofty ideals is all well and fun but seriously thinking about having children direct their own learning speaks more to indulgence than logic.
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      Apr 14 2011: I think you do children a Dis-Service. It is Naive to think that all children do not understand the benefits of a good education.
      Not all children want 'Chocolate'
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      Apr 27 2011: Certainly not. Ask me what I want to eat and my response will be a healthy, low-sodium penne al-arrabitatta with a nice helping of broccoli...and maybe a small scoop of low-fat ice cream afterward. And that's my approach to education as well. There are plenty of kids out there whose responses to "How do we fix education?" will NOT be "Go on vacation forever!" I wrote a blog on the Huffington Post about a few ideas to change education, and I think most people can agree that they were measured and reasonable.
  • Apr 5 2011: The first step to empowering students will be to stop belittling them and assuring them that they are incapable of affecting the society around them. Prejudice against anyone under a certain age is extreme and found in all aspects of any society I am aware of, often needlessly, and this reflects in the attitudes of individual persons. Children are to be smiled at and entertained but not taken seriously or thought about as rational human beings. Whilst it may be true that they are on the whole immature and most things they say really aren't to be taken seriously the prejudice extends to an unspoken 'adults are better than children and children should not speak their mind for it is never anything of importance' which stifles any chance of empowerment in kids.
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    Apr 1 2011: Creating a learning environment that includes input/feedback from the student is basic to an effective educational system. How that happens is all in the "details".

    I can't pinpoint the exact quote, but it says something like, "the less you know about a subject, the more freedom you have to think outside the box".

    Another thought is that learning by trial and error (exploratory learning) can produce the most powerful learning. Children are natural explorers; we (teachers) their guides.

    Then there's the well-worn quote of Einstein's: "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

    All of these perspectives point to the fact that the student should play an active part in the discovery of a better educational system
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    Apr 1 2011: Very little of this discussion touches on fact that teaching strategies differ for each developmental stage.

    Some of my own rules for teaching:
    1. Each developmental stage has it's own set of unique characteristics that come into play when developing strategies for teaching/learning.
    1. No one stage is more important than another
    3. During early childhood, it's the children who "drive" the learning through guided play and emergent skills-based learning.
    4. Mentoring is more powerful that "teaching".
    • Apr 4 2011: My belief is that preschool montessori is great and that by 2nd or 3rd grade, children want to know the rules. They want to get it right.. so it's a prefect time for a classical approach where we lay down the foundation skills. By middle school, social development is the developmental focus and group work and interactive learning becomes more important. By high school, we need to tear down what we've taught and re-see the world. Much like Foundation Year in art school, the structures we've established so that the young mind can understand and coordinate ideas and skills need to be reconsidered, rethought or thrown away for a time so that the mind learns to consider new ideas and structures.
  • Mar 31 2011: Love the talk and debate around this issue right now. I believe that our education system is in need of huge reform, I like the idea of a student centric approach I think that we face two issues, what we are teaching and how we are teaching, with saying that :) I don't know if the best way to get the best changes is to just simply ask.

    I think that you don't know what you don't know. I am almost positive if you were to look back 20 years and ask kids how they would like their music, they could tell you I want to carry it in my hand but they could not tell you that they wanted to have a device the size of their hands that could hold 300 digital downloads. Most suggestions come from what you know and in most cases all human ( kids or adults) could never have asked for some of the most revolutionary products we use today.

    I think its great to ask but the best way in my mind to work with kids/teachers to reform our school system is to sit back, track behavior, watch what currently happens in the school system and outside of that system to bring new innovations and ideas into play.

    For myself, I think that youth today have a very different world than 20 years ago. It would be crazy to think that nothing should change. We are an information rich society we can google any topic and have 12 pages of information around any topic, comments and conversation from peers, experts and people in other environmens or countries. Our problem is not information knowledge that we lack. Our problem is how do we take alt his information and do something with it, put it into action.
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      Mar 31 2011: Romantic notions of students really does not help move the cause of education forward. Twenty years ago students were in a different world and 20 years before that and so on. It is interesting to read articles of parental concerns over their children and how radically different their world was when compared to when the parents were young.

      The era was the 1920s.

      The Greeks of the Peloponnesian era commented on their youth and how they couldn't motivate them to learn.

      Go to the website and you can read the archived issues and see the list of educational highlights and concerns for the past 60 years. You may be surprised.

      Twenty years ago we undertook radical reform of the educational system. The drop-out rate was very much higher than it is today. Bullying was rampant and no uniform attempts to address the issue was available. Females were under-performing in all courses and the male:female teaching force was 1:1. Universities were largely still a male domain; curriculum was stagnant and standardized government testing was mandated for all students in nearly all subjects. Students who under-performed were simply failed. Teachers could still gain contracts without having completed a degree program.

      Change was implemented and now...indicators show that the drop-out rate has been significantly decreased; the incidence of bullying has decreased (but still needs attention); females outperform males in all subjects at all levels and the teaching force is now approaching 80% female. Every teacher must have at least an undergraduate degree and many have completed post-graduate programs, and the university population split across all programs is about 60% female. In education programs it is reaching 75% female. Early-learning initiatives are readily available and curriculum has reverted to resource-based and off-set by online and distance learning...

      Change marches on.
      • Mar 31 2011: Agreed I think that the basic concerns for any parent at any point in history would always be very similar.

        When we look at why most people believe that education is important, it comes down to the fact that people believe education= access to a better way of life. Who is to say that our current system is the best possible way this outcome is achieved? In truth their are more highly educated unemployed people than ever in our world today.

        When I say that young people have a different world and that it would be crazy to believe that our systems should not change to meet the new challenges, I am not saying that parents concerns are different.

        A good example of what I mean is this, child safety has always and will always be of concern for any parent from any decade. But if we never made changes based on the way our society and culture has change we would have no lighted cross walks to help safely cross the street as we never used to need them because there were no cars.

        Change is inevitable, and in today's world it happens at lightning speed. If we are not changing and improving we are not being progressive.

        The short of it yep agreed the concerns will always be the same the way with which we need to deal with them to meet the new challenges that our world presents us is very different.
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          Mar 31 2011: Your comment, "Who is to say that our current system is the best possible way this outcome is achieved?", rings clarion, at least for me.

          Forgive my dour predictions but I do believe we have not, will not and should not try to achieve a best way. Something positive humans have contributed to this environmentally disabled world (totally our fault in so many ways) is to work to dismantle segregation.

          Although we are no more intelligent than we were when we first embraced the concept of agriculture 10,000 years ago, we somehow now have managed to support an enormous range of human diversity, in thought and in being. Not everywhere mind you as an effective counter-balance to this is to enforce archaic and seemingly arbitrary social rules on a subjugated populace (current world events applicable).

          What does this mean? It means there is little chance or need for singular solutions (best ways). The perfect solution for you may be a disastrous one for me. Arrogance would lead us to believe our own solution would be best.

          Self-appointed interest (expert?) groups employ these types of approaches to problem-solving, all the best to them, but they seem to be thinking of building some 'silver bullet' solution. My dour side says this tree will not bear fruit, for it is not a fruit tree.
      • Mar 31 2011: Very true Eric I too do not think that their is a best way or a universal solution to any problem, rather I think that our world and all humans are built to be diverse therefore to believe that a solution for one person will fit another is pure ignorance.

        This is why in my original comments I suggested we turn to a student centric approach in our school system, one that tailors education to an individual child needs/learning style.

        In general most schools try a blanket approach due to resource constraints which may be unnecessary if we reform the way with which we are providing education.
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          Mar 31 2011: "quod erat demonstrandum" (QED) or, "quite easily done" (QED)?
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    May 10 2011: By showing them how to study without relying on schools.

    Whether schools do or do not exist or what form they take is less important than whether a student feels free to go outside the school system to find his or her own answers.

    The most well thought-out rendition of how this is done that I am aware of is Hubbard's Study Technology.

    In this learning paradigm, the scholar, expert, or "teacher" creates one or more courses for the subject he/she wishes to impart. This takes the form of a checklist of study steps and needed materials and equipment. The student then studies this course at his/her own pace supervised by someone who makes sure that he/she is applying the study technology. The final test of understanding is whether or not the student can apply the materials.

    If no courses exist for a certain subject of interest, the technology also covers how to study a subject independently.
    This is how I learned electronics in a family environment weak on science and engineering and a school environment that did not offer the subject.

    Related concepts:
    Ivan Illich's "learning networks."
    Home schooling.
    Charter schools.
    Education vouchers.
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    Apr 30 2011: Be honest.

    I think most of us have known our world is in dire straits for some time and it's time our education system started preparing students for the only truth this world can offer us, which is change.

    The ability for a person to explore, persevere, and look at the big picture, beyond the scope of their own life, will ultimately make or break the planet Earth.

    All of this is only possible when people are able to accept responsibility and care about other people.

    Schools should focus on those things and everything else we teach should follow in those footsteps.

    Above all things, we should be honest to our students about the world they live in and the challenges we have, as well as the hopes and dreams.
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    Apr 27 2011: I will again remind everyone that to talk about education in such generalities is non-productive and cannot contribute in a significant way towards gaining any true insight.
    Children require different teaching strategies and educational systems at different stages of their development. What a preschooler needs to learn is not what an elementary grade student needs, which is different from what a middle school student needs, and that is different from what a high school student needs. To know that is to understand the real, unique needs of students/children.
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      Apr 28 2011: This is true.
      Also recognising that children don't just change their needs year by year as they get older, but sometimes on a weekly basis.
      There are just some days when they don't feel like doing it. A good teacher doesn't run on curriculum tracks all the time... sometimes they 'off road'
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      Apr 29 2011: Yes, agree Jim. We are all victim of 'not overseeing the big picture, as there are many variables etc. So we start in generalities (I guess?) to find a mutual language for common ground?

      Why don't 'we' do the next step, in making a mindmap of the issues in this topic raised and see where the help of kids are possible and where they should be avoided... It's a jungle of issues and views raised, though there are interdepending corner stones to be found I guess.
  • Apr 26 2011: A lot of people have pointed out the obvious fact of a need to change modern day education. But almost all are quite stumped when the answer is being pondered. One of the reasons for this is because we are all from that same system.

    As ken Robinson has often pointed out todays education system is making children ready for yesterdays jobs. The future will see a lot more integration of the WEB into everyday life. But it is important to note that we currently teaching kids that 2+2 is 4 and fail to explain effectively why it is 4.

    The point that I am making is that we need to empower kids to explore the reason/ cause for a phenomenon and not just merely acknowledge it. We are teaching kids today like "Data Entry operators". We just put the data into their system and expect them to remember it. All our tests are memory contests. We need kids to be curious about things. This is actually there but we suppress that instinct of natural curiosity.

    The concept of homework was introduced to enable this. But even that has become redundant, because more and more kids realise that by giving the right answer they can score higher marks rather than trying to answer it their own way. Also, we need to erase the stigma attached to being wrong.

    If we can do this then we can automatically find more and more kids changing the way they learn
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    Apr 24 2011: As a teacher, one of the greatest opportunities I have had was to take a group of my sophomores down to the Illinois State Legislature to talk about this issue directly with their state senators. While some students were naturally reluctant to engage in this kind of critical conversation with state senators, their experience changed their outlook about how government should work for them (not the other way around).

    Students were awestruck by the fact that most of the senators they spoke to were people who grew up in the same neighborhoods they did, and came up in the same school system as they did. Giving students the background information on this very issue, and then sending them to the "front lines" to talk with politicians and lobbyists about this issue will be part of the solution to this question you have posed.

    Additionally, making our own efforts as teachers and educators transparent to students, and creating a classroom culture that encourages autonomy and responsibility for their own education will be instrumental in addressing this question head on.
    • May 6 2011: Getting kids out of school teaches them tacit knowledge that they would not gain in any other way. Kudos to you for going above and beyond the call of duty. I think that THIS is what schools are lacking, REAL experiences for students.
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    Apr 23 2011: By asking them your exact question. They have the solution. Personally, I feel there should be a balance of vocational and spiritual education. Teach them the skills, how to use it in the world and real life experience. Only when one shares their acquired knowledge or real life experience does it generate value and meaning. Right knowledge is empowering especially when it allows you to help others. First capture change in the mindset through inspiration and hope, changes in the education system, naturally, will follow.
  • Apr 20 2011: To start I like to recommend two books. 1). Movement and Experimentation in Young Children's learning by Liselott Mariett Olsson, and the other is Truth and Method by Hans-Georg Gadamer. Young children are competent and resourceful the thing is that most adults try to figure out how children think instead of trying to understand the thoughts they have (and be amazed by them). To empower children and make them true agents in their own development would begin as far as I am concerned here. Listen to their theories about the world and take these serious and be willing to confront your own truths.

    I have been working with children for many years know and have realized that to empower children it means letting go of the adult-child power relationship. One needs to work with problems the children are preoccupied with, problems of the here and know. By confronting problems and letting children find solutions (individually or in a group) they have the opportunity to use their creativity as individuals and as a group. This may seem a scenario leading to chaos but experimentation is all about movement as so should be education.

    Enjoy your day!
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      Apr 20 2011: @kris kalkman; indeed when I reflect upon my relationship with my now grown children, I think if I had chosen to be less of the "Father" figure and more about just being their friend and holding conversation with them, they would have appreciated that much more.
      • Apr 20 2011: I am a preschool teacher and currently in the process of taking my master in Early Childhood Development and Care. When I come to work I am welcomed by a whole bunch of children with much excitement. This I think because for the first I respect them as individuals and secondly I respect their personal thoughts. I treat these children as human beings with their own prerequisites and are furthermore always aware of the fact that they have a view of the world that is unknown to me. To find out what this view is I need to establish a relationship which is characterized by trust and understanding. They need to know that they can speak freely on no matter what it is they are thinking about. This sometimes can be about that they are being teased or on other times it can be about why the moon is hanging in the sky.

        When addressing these problems or questions it is important for me than to take their conception of what is going on as something that is reality for them. This reality needs to be heard and taken into careful consideration because often it can be an opening to something much bigger. The question about the moon could be explained in a scientific way, but is it also possible that this and the child's conception can be intertwined into something even more exciting? When a child gets bullied is it possible to start group reflections concerning philosophy and ethics going as far as to draw in f. ex Emmanuel Levinas?

        A child or adult are both human beings but at the same time we are also human becomings and for this we all need inspiring thoughts and people surrounding us, whether we are young or old. This is a key factor in education and in life.
  • Apr 20 2011: Great question Sarah.

    To know, we are all students and we are all teachers, is empowering.
  • Apr 13 2011: The education system is in desperate need of several things:
    1) clear and cohesive standards in all subjects. NOT standardized testing achievement standards, but standards on exactly what students should be taught and should know.
    2) Curriculums need to interlock and relate to each other so students feel that they are learning something that is truly a part of the world, not an abstract subject. For example, history classes need to incorporate aspects of music, science, math and english. Science needs to incorporate music; english, history, etc.
    Students need to make connections between classes in order for them to be fully engaged.
  • Apr 8 2011: If we give kids Ipads (or any pad loaded with the right apps) at 2 or 3 years old (try it), they will reshape the education system. By the time they get to school they're going to know how to speak, write, do math and navigate the solar system. That's going to free up some serious time in school for actual learning.
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      Apr 20 2011: Totally agree. It sounds like you also have a toddler of 2-3 and looking all the time for new apps as my son get's bored quite fast.

      The question is, are we as adults/designers organized well enough to deliver the apps kids in 2 years; of 4-6 need to be excited to explore and 'learn'.
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    Apr 4 2011: Where is the "once upon a school" 2008 TED wish by Dave Eggers in the talk list?

    A very concrete way!
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      Apr 10 2011: Thanks for the link! It was great to take a look at.
      The only downside I could think of was the amount of time spent at schools / tutors.
      Therefor I would never have been interested.

      So far the Khan Academy really excites me,
      I hope they will expand their Exercises (only Math so far).

      Also, what do you think should change within higher education?
      Besides that everyone should watch TED ^^ (I believe you posted that somewhere)
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    Mar 31 2011: FYI: My topic on religious fundamentalism and social policy was given the boot by TED as a violation of the 'term' baloney. No real reason was given in the form letter. Since you had added comments, I thought you should know. I tried to email you but it would not work. Some issues are too hot to handle at TED
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    Mar 31 2011: The revolution we need is quite simple. Private enterprise providing education. Society must avoid government of doing it. Teachers must see students as clients. Schools should compete providing the best to their students. A voucher system should exist to let poor people to have access to the best schools. Each school should choose the subject.
    • Ben B

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      Mar 31 2011: Your proposition is very interesting, and there are a few pro's this suggestion would provide, but it makes me wonder; how will you make sure everyone's treated equally?
      How will you ensure the main goal is the wellbeing of the children in a governmentfunded FOR-PROFIT organisation? As schools are the cornerstone of democracy, how do you make sure your teachers will be objective? How will you make sure schools don't become a marketingploy to teach them how to prefer a certain company's products? Or specificly train them to become the company's employees?
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        Apr 1 2011: Public schools do not have the monopoly of goodwill. Schools in a competitive environment will try to offer the best to their students. Otherwise parents will avoid the schools, which are not well ranked. Results (grades, sponsorships, good jobs) will show to the market the schools we should choose and those we should avoid. Public control is a delusion anyway when we talk about staterun facilities. It is the paradise for burocrats and demagogues. Today, everybody wants to go to private schools but a few can afford it. Demand for a good education is much bigger than offer in an unbelievable way because people would to avoid public school if they could. However, there is no choice for them. Rich people or gifted talent people have granted access to the best places. Where is the equality here? Poor people or ordinary people go to ordinary public school where competitiveness lacks. There are two problems to be faced: how to privatise and how to manage the voucher system to keep the money safe from the burocrats and usual corruption. PS: Funds do not come from government. It come from every individual who contributes for education. What comes in, must goes out. I do not trust in government but, I can accept them taking care of those funds, instead of taking care of our children´s education.
        • Apr 4 2011: Poor students = poor schools. It's not government that is the reason why poor students have less access. Belief that capitalism in control will result in a better product and more satisfaction is one that must (in the current climate) be held without supporting evidence. Again, I come back to the health care industry. But I might as well look at the way in which capitalism undermines communities. It used to be that recession was consistent with a depressed stockmarket, decline in consumer confidence, and a failing job market. Now, we have a thriving stockmarket, a failing job market, failing real estate market and decline in consuumer confidence. All institutions whether profit seeking or public tend toward corruption over time. Communism suffers from lack of initiative, but capitalism suffers from a lack of conscience. Capitalism supports capitalism, not communities, not education, not better products, not health care. It is inherently disinterested in being a driving force for anything but profit. It serves itself even at the expense of the host.
    • Apr 1 2011: The notion that privatizing education will solve education's problems assumes that the problem lies strictly with the school systems, that government run institutions are subject to more corruption than private ones, and that privatization always results in superior products through competition.

      First, the collapsing education infrastructure in poor communities does not mean that public schools are generally failing. Public education thrives in places where poverty is not an issue and privatization has not reduced the number of highly able children in the local school system. Secondly, privatization quietly encourages a system where children from empowered families benefit at the expense of children from disenfranchised families. Vouchers give the empowered family more resources toward a bill it can already pay and give disenfranchised families the imitation of choice through access to resources that are insufficient for real choice.

      Finally, It has not been my experience that privatization has been a universally positive force for improvment in the institutions that it already encompasses. Witness the health insurance industry, for one. Privatization largely benefits the profiteers, leaving the "client" to struggle for access to resources that are designated to profit. While some people enjoy the thought that all things will be possible if only they can be enjoined by profit, the loss of a free, publicly funded education for all only serves those who already have options.
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        Apr 2 2011: There is no free nor publicly funded education. Public education is well paid, costs a lot and is funded by tax payers. Even the poor people is paying through sales taxes or so. Even finding bad schools in the market, competition and free of choice would give us opportunity to elect what should be better to our children.
        • Apr 4 2011: no... it isn't free if you pay taxes. But, you will pay those taxes whether they pay for infrastructure or not. Wait and see. More to the point, however, competition has not improved health care or industry to the extent that you seem to think it has. We don't have a strictly free market. If we did, a public option would be an easy sell. But, insurance companies don't want to compete with a public option choice. It would put a bite on their profits.

          Look at housing or clothing or really any product. After a certain point, it makes much more sense to regiment tastes so that products can be made and sold efficiently. The first iteration of many products on the market today were of a higher quality than the same product after initial consumer investment. The owners seek to make the same device or provide the same service for less money so as to increase their profits. They work with other makers to fix price and product. Eventually, the consumer must buy the product that is offered. Of course, the wealthy consumer will get access to a superior product, but the average consumer will not.

          Similarly, competition in school systems will result in creating products that produce more profit. Parents will think they have choice because they can pick and choose between mediocre options. Wealthy parents will take their vouchers and go off to their elite, selective schools that prepare leaders and culture makers and the middle and working class parents will take test scores... naively equating higher test scores on mediocre tests with a quality education. Too bad for them, eh?
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      Apr 4 2011: Roberto, there are capitalist private and non-secular schools already in existence.

      You see no place for a public secular heterarchical system for learning?

      Perhaps you are a person of privilege and derive pleasure from cataloging the poor and randomly awarding some with vouchers. That should make them feel dignified and why wouldn't they be appreciative of your gesture?

      Can't wait to hear more of your education selection process.
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        Apr 4 2011: The question here is: why do we need government, with all its incompetence, to provide education to our kids? People who pays taxes but has no money to afford private schools does not have choice. Neither to runaway from tax collectors nor to pick the school of their choice. Once government will collect taxes anyway, at least the people could have their right to choose what is better to their children. Everybody should have the right to get the voucher. Also those who currentlto grant y have chosen to afford private school to their children are also funding public school while they are paying for taxes. This is unfair. It is proven that public school cost almost the same as a private school but far less qualification. Several countries and even states in the USA use voucher system to fund and develop their educational programs. With this system, people get the best possible arrangement from capitalism: free of choice to the individuals, no matter their income and standard of living (demand) and competition to offer the best education with lower costs (supply); and from socialism: sharing money collected from individuals by force. Of course, home schooling would be included in this arrangement, where parents who spend time teaching their children would be reimbursed by such vouchers upon their costs. Everyone of us would be able to choose what, now-a-days, is restricted only to privileged people: location, subject, system, secular or non-secular, hebrew, catholic, whatever we can and can afford.
  • Mar 31 2011: One of my professors during my MBA always asked the following questions:
    1. Was this information useful?
    2. Did we accomplish what we set up to do?
    3. What can we do to improve for next time?

    If kids are asked and allowed to respond (even anonymously) without fear of retribution, things will get better quick.
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    Mar 30 2011: This great piece ran on Edutopia today -, and this paragraph, in particular, caught my eye: "...More and more of society at large, and consequently many students, are demanding an educational system that works for and with them. These students are not bored. They are very curious, eager to learn, and willing to do whatever it takes to learn. I believe that the student-centered learning environment enables an educator to deal effectively with all types of students in the same classroom. A student-centered learning environment encourages students to become independent learners and ultimately to be in charge of their own education.

    "Are teachers obsolete? Absolutely not. But, an educator's role is changing from the traditional "imparter of knowledge" to that of coach and consultant. "

    At a related conversation (Crowdsourcing learning) and on TED ED, I've proffered the idea that maybe we should look at 21st century teaching as something more akin to being a "learning guide," where people bring their experience and expertise to bearin the guidance of learners much like wilderness guides help hikers and explorers. Maybe an apropos analogy for the new role of teachers in the 21st century is as "sherpas" - experts in their fields who guide others on journeys of self-discovery.

    Mr. Blasdel doesn't seem to believe that children can guide their own futures. I beg to differ and can provide plenty of evidence to support that they can, from my own children to plenty of young entrepreneurs. I didn't know anything in school either - but I was curious, and I was fortunate enough to engage with people who indulged and encouraged my curiosity, and helped shape it into useful knowledge. I believe we can do the same for more, on a larger scale.
    • Apr 1 2011: I think what you're talking about is excellent for children whose parents are empowered and who have been nurtured in an environment that is so individualized and thoughtful. But, it is likely to be disastrous for poor children and those who come from otherwise decayed family structures. They don't have the social, emotional, intellectual or physical context for what you suggest. The foundation that needs to be in place is not there. Children in inner city schools or who are born to, say, alcoholics, substance abusers or 13 year old parents live in chaos and their vision for the future is constrained by that chaos. They need to have their interests and experiences expanded before they can really set upon a journey of self-discovery. First, they need reliable structures that can support development in areas that are underdeveloped due to environmental deficits.
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    Mar 30 2011: Super School University has just stared the Cabo Verde Tenth Island Project. Students and teachers from around the world are going to collaborate with one another to build the perfect island with the perfect school system. This project will be in Portuguese and English. We have chosen the island of Santa Luzia, Cabo Verde. This island is uninhabited and we are going to build it from the ground up. All students will work for Super School University as interns and student backpack journalists in one or more of the following departments: Jr. Medical School, Jr. Business School, Jr. Law School, Jr. Urban Planning School, Jr. Environmental Science School, Kids Talk Radio, Super School Teen TV, Super School Press and Youth World News. Other departments and schools will be added to complete the project. Nine Kids Talk Radio stations are planned for nine of the Cabo Verde Islands. You can follow our progress by visiting www.KidsTalkRadioUSA. We are still taking applications for gifted and talented teachers and students. The results of this project will be presented to President Obama and the US Department of Education. This project supports the US STEM Program in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This is our creative way of helping America and other countries "Race to the Top." We welcome your comments.
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    Mar 27 2011: I'd say the problem is that students in school do not really know why they are studying what they are studying.

    Mostly, the reason for them to study is to prepare for exams and tests. But if you ask a student, they will not be able to tell where concepts of math are useful in real life. I remember myself not being able to relate to the stuff I was learning. In fact I still don't know what integration or differentiation does!

    This goes for many concepts of science, math and even subjects of social science and art. Students do not know what is the relevance of studying such subjects. They do not know the importance in reality. But, for instance, when I learnt gravitation in physics, it made a lot of sense to me. I also didn't have to mug up its concepts because it explained my real life observations.

    The same can also be said about economics, languages, fine arts and so on.. If the student does not know how distribution of resources or communication skills are related to his or her real life, then the student will never understand the importance of the education system.

    This, I think, is the first and the foremost step before students, or anyone for that matter, can make a positive impact on the system. If we can help kids realize this relationship, we can surely empower them to reshape schooling.
    • Mar 28 2011: Agreed, agreed, agreed!

      Grumbling over the stupidity of learning fractions, my neice complained "I don't know why I have to learn this stupid stuff! It's not like I'm ever going to USE it!"

      So I had her take a break from studying, and had her help me bake some cookies. "One quarter of a cup of this " ... and "one and two-thirds cup" of that ... is really all it took for her to appreciate the applications.

      This is how to teach practical application and how to get a child to appreciate why they're learning what's being taught.

      It's also a great excuse to bake cookies! :-)
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    Mar 26 2011: Sometimes it's a punch in the gut, but I allow students to write critiques on the lessons we've covered. Perhaps this needs to be promoted on a regular basis.

    Also, it has been said time and time again that we underestimate our students. Perhaps campuses and districts could create a committee of students that critique and help develop the curriculum. Each content area could have a group of student ambassadors. Why not? Students need to be heard. Not only would the information for the campus promote chreflection and change it would be excellent in promoting voice, project management and various other skills in the students that participate.

    Time to THINK outside of the box. (so cliche but oh so true)

    Great thread, thanks - Marisa

    Note - teacher bashers. PLEASE don't underestimate your teachers. MANY are passionate about being effective. Resources are at times very limited. We are constantly trying to be creative. So for those that bash - please please please do not generalize. Don't let one "lazy - bad" teacher represent the whole.
  • Mar 24 2011: Our country needs to embrace kids as the face of education. As an educator with 25 years experience, I believe that we have a responsibility to create leadership opportunities for students at school. Every day. Students should be leading assemblies, writing the school newsletter, talking to the PTA, writing grants. Ross Greene says that kids will do well if they can. It is the responsibility of educators to create those opportunities when we can, as often as we can. Kids want to be successful. We hold them back.
  • May 16 2011: I'm currently setting up an enterprise that I think addresses a core need within education today. I will return once I have something I can share about our mandate.
  • May 15 2011: How do we realize the changes needed to effect positive change and growth for our kids?
  • May 15 2011: Allow students the power of choice, even if it is from a carefully selected options. Students have little power to override the present system of money dictating form in schools. It is no secret that by making high-stakes testing the grounds for success (if not survival) for both students and schools that effective education with application to the demands of the real world can get lost along the way through innumerable unfortunate compromises.

    What can change is the EXPECTATION of student involvement. With students expected to have a decision in what it is they learn in class, from choices provided by the teacher that day that follow national and state standards (even if it does necessarily deviate from robo-textbook teaching), students will choose what most concerns their needs/interests, allow for intrinsic motivation to take root, a measure of accountability is transferred to the student, teachers are pushed beyond the narrow confines of the 'island' classroom, and the inescapable bias of the student/teacher/education establishment can be mitigated towards a more learning-effective environment for every individual student.

    This expectation of student accountability in schools fortunately can bring about assessment reform as well. Assessments based upon what was learned, but more on how what was learned was employed, which is more in-tune with the expectations beyond the confines of the classroom anyway.

    Many roads lead to Rome, the best road depends on where you are coming from.
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    May 14 2011: Students today are passively accepting the system's one-size-fits-all framework. They're told the classes they “need,” the books that are “required,” etc, and as a result, they're losing their ability to think critically; even worse, they're allowing their voice -- to affect matters most important to them -- to be reduced to a best.

    I've co-founded a website,, that aims to help college students avoid unnecessary textbook purchases by providing a place for peers to discuss how professors use their "required" materials. Reviewing textbooks might not seem like a huge deal but it’s solving a problem that previously had no solution. Our site will help students save money, but there's an even greater mission. Through the initial action of reviewing their textbooks to help teach other learn how the materials are used, we hope to empower students to take ownership over their education. With tuition costs continuing to rise, students need to make sure the money spend -- and will have to pay back -- provides a valuable return on investment. In in this case, that should be knowledge.

    Students must work together to make a change in the system. We hope to provide the tool that will shakeup the textbook industry, and that students will continue the mission to revolution the system of education and return the emphasis to learning.

    (On behalf of all those who've worked to create, any feedback relating to our mission/functionality of our site would be greatly appreciated.)
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    May 12 2011: My child is fresh out of the gate, on her way to Kindergarten in August. She does homework already in Preschool, but I am having a difficult time seeing how it is in any way effective in keeping her engagement; her involvement stops at going through the motions of practicing associations on paper. I try to add some depth and story behind the counting, writing words, etc. at her level. This is no easy task! She still hasn't developed an appropriate attention span for it. I often have to resort to positive and negative reinforcement for motivation to complete her homework. I don't want it to be this way.

    We have voluntary Pre-K in Florida, aimed at getting kids ready for public school. Is the tax money well spent? What can be done differently so that this schooling-prior-to-school is actually effective and constructive? How will the following years of early education build on this beginning and bring things together for the kids? I am very concerned, because I can recall the very day I decided I hated math, and it was in 3rd grade: We were required to do timed multiplication drills. The gap just grew greater over time. What a disaster if my child's curiosity and eagerness in education ends up snuffed out in a similar manner.

    I want you all to think about this as you pontificate over ideas. This is where it all begins for them.
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      May 13 2011: Malee, there is no curriculum for pre-school children. This is intentional because pre-school is play-based - it's not an academic preparatory institution.

      Do you think your daughters pre-school is practicing grade school curriculum on children? Please let this not be true.

      The reference to the 'gate' your child is leaving, do you envision this as the beginning of her rat race?

      What possible homework assignment could a pre-school child be doing?
  • May 10 2011: Challenge students to think critically about what their interests are. Every child is unique and instead of conforming to a ridged, out-dated system, education should be fluid.

    Place creativity and innovation back into the hands of students... Challenge students to learn about their interests.
  • May 8 2011: One thing keeps popping up and so I would like to share this in the hope that it is actually useful. Some of you may have heard that in the east they talk about direct transmission of the dharma or enlightenment. They say that hearing fine theoreticalisations of 'the way' (whatever way that may be) is useless unless the source is enlightened.
    In Parma Itlay there are scientists working on mirror neurons (for those of you who want to understand this I recommend furthre research). It is true that we have an interior neuronal copy paste mechanism that is internally representing the outer percieved world and those in it to a tee, even in so far as me watching you pick up an apple gives me the exact same neurological response in the motor cortex as if I were picking up that apple. Luckily the nerve-response tells the brain that its ok not to initiate action because that isn't me.
    So tying these two together we see why Harvard is a better university than many others, because the lecturers have a comprehensive and experiential knowledge of what they are talking about and this comes across in the neuronal response. This is what makes it a good university. The knowledge as text on paper, or as directed by someone who only learned it from text on paper is of a much diminished quality compared to when it is taught by someone who has gone through the experiential process of developing it.
    We always encourage students to 'go to the source', get the original text etc. Of course this makes should hear it 'from the horse's mouth'. Now given this light from neurology we see why video based learning is best, we can capture the source and reproduce it.
    Now saying that this is the case does not imply that I believe people will do it out of inspiration in the morning, however, this is the case and it is right that we should act on it. Good luck with all of your efforts, I wish the project well in all sincerity, the world needs it.
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    Apr 30 2011: There are a few ideas I have, as this is one of my own life goals.
    1)Relational teaching: teach all materials beginning with and from the point of view of their intersections with all other areas. Operate from the perspective that physics can be used to teach algebra, designing & building a bench for the local library can teach geometry and human physiology and psychology, learning to build a fire can teach chemistry, physics, sociology, group dynamics, and cooking, cooking meals for the community or the school can teach nutrition, chemistry, several math branches, physics, first aid, process logic - etc.
    2)Empowerment by empowerment: curriculum should be based on doing things for others in the immediate community that are visible, vital (not merely "sweet" or token), and actually beneficial or even necessary to the greater good.
    3)Mentorship in community: forming non-age-based friendships and living together over an entire "school career" allows for the deep learning no book or transitory relationship can provide.
    4)Mastery: rather than having schedules of what a child should know or what they are ready handle according to age or "grade", student progress should be monitored in several different categories of knowledge and skills that are allowed and encouraged to develop at the student's own pacing. Concern over special needs and/or teaching problems should be easily seen because of the above mentioned long-term mentoring relationship and simple statistics between students and within the individual student (between each of their categories ie: progressing in one area much faster than others or lagging behind in one area).
    5)Spiritual & Emotional exploration and expression: the student's existence as a spiritual being needs to have a place to flourish as well. Whether a faith-based environment or not, students all need a place to wrestle with their own theologies and their places within them that reflect a healthy sense of both humility and personal empowerment.
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    Apr 30 2011: How can we empower the Teachers and Administration to reshape the education system?

    Empowering the kids is easy, teach them the truth. Teach them history as told by the oppressed and not the oppressor. Let's stop pretending the founding fathers were good men. Let's stop pretending Columbus Day is not an insult to all First Nations People. For the love of God, Goddess, Jesus, Buddha, Sitting Bull, Mohammed, teach children the truth! Teach children how to love and care for plants and animals at an early age as well. Teach children about nature and how to care for the earth and all the elements. Teach children the wisdom of indigenous peoples all over the world. Teach children about the work of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.
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      May 2 2011: Wow. Me and a friend are writing an r&d proposal since 2 months for education of the future to involve indigenous learning methods and put the elements central stage in classroom and home learning. This friday is our deadline.

      So you just summed these 4 teaching point up as one of many or are you also working on solutions to implement on your continent?

      More people having the same ideas? It's logic what is needed, so there must be. Maybe on every continent one person would be cool... So Africa? Asia? South America? Oceania? Who's in?
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    Apr 29 2011: Which learning environment has best of old and new methods combined? AND children are exited/eager to learn by personal curiosity? If we know that, we can ask kids ( and teachers and parents) what can be improved on those to be even 'better'.
  • Apr 29 2011: Continued:

    The real challenge is not to empower the child but engage the parents in the educational well-being of their child from birth and to enable the unsupported children to make educated, informed, and supportable decisions.

    The discussion about the current educational system is mute because of all of the special interests. Every locale, region, and state already has the educational system, structure, and personnel that it is willing to support. Tweaking the model is an exercise in futility. Aspiring to empower every child within that system is a waste of breath and text.

    There is ample money available for the education of our youth if we are willing to disabuse ourselves of the premise that all students must be treated equally, every teacher is qualified or protected from consequences, and all circumstances must be equitable. This does not mean that most children are sacrificed in favor of the gifted and talented, it means that each child is allowed to seek his or her own level and the educational infrastructure is adequate and appropriate for the task. It means that the committed student, regardless of age, is allowed the freedom to qualify for the subsidized cost of and the competency appropriate level of their education.

    In summary, expect our children to become responsible and you will empower them. Monitor there progress and provide feedback both positive and negative. Allow them to fail to but try not to allow it to be persistent without giving them a chance identify a change of course or alter their short term objectives. They must be the responsible party and the system should allow them to take responsibility.
  • Apr 29 2011: Every child is already empowered, they determine their involvement, commitment, and duration. I agree with some of the previous participants. The child should not make their curricular decisions and I believe that not even the teacher should have exclusive right to make them.

    The question should not be 'how to empower children' but rather how to enable access and what measures will be taken to maximize their potential.

    The access issue must be one of discrimination. Not age, color, social or financial status etc.. It must be based on discriminating between the degrees of aptitude, attitude, and commitment.

    If every child had the same opportunity via educational vouchers then the determining factor would be their competency level or GPA. Individual responsibility would empower the child to achieve their maximum potential because it would provide and avenue for them to seek appropriate instruction and study under the best qualified teacher in an appropriate curriculum or vocation.

    By not discriminating by age it would be possible for a child, who was slow to mature or come to the realization of their passions, to find the commitment and develop the attitude to pursue and excel.

    By using the voucher and grade as the determinate our most competent and responsible students will be taught by our most competent and responsible teachers. Our nearly as competent students will be taught by the next most competent teachers and neither the incompetent student or incompetent teacher will waste the time and effort of the competent but will serve the roles of prīmər and primər.
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    Apr 29 2011: I teach creative thinking. When children of any age are shown how to engage in learning with creativity and imagination, they become filled with a sense of meaning and purpose. Their true self begins to emerge and its then that you realize that what motivates children is what motivates all of us - insight that leads to understanding.

    I have a saying I use to help people understand what I do:

    "Teach a child to fish and they will know how to fish. But teach a child to be a fish - now you've taught them something they can use!"

    It's not meant to diminish the importance of practical learning but instead to remind teachers that there is more work to be done...
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      Apr 29 2011: Empathy on a fish :) nice one. You could also do that for trees, mountains etc. It sure fits in the needs of learning.
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        Apr 29 2011: Yes! Teach children to fall in love with nature.
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    Apr 28 2011: Kids don't know much of anything, all these myths about children being geniuses, notwithstanding.
    • May 8 2011: just because they have not been provided information for their minds to order does not mean that their capacity to order information is not immense; this is something we should understand and work on. We do not make use of the efficiency that is latent in childrens mind's. I agree that children don't 'know' much, but they have a faculty for knowlege that education more oft than not diminishes.
  • Apr 27 2011: In addition to requesting student videos, why not sponsor a meeting of the size and importance of the one the adults attended for young people?
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    Apr 27 2011: I watched a video last night about the education system and there is no doubt that there are problems with it. I'm a returning student (29) and for the past ten years did not focus on education or self improvement. When I was in school and actually took the time to go I was bored and able to get As with out even trying. I ended up becoming a high school drop out not because of a lack of ability rather school never impressed upon me that it had anything to offer. Obviously there is plenty to be offered in education but I'm finding all this out on my own. The major problems with the education system is it is ran like a corporation. Children are put into groups similar to a date of manufacture and processed through the system. Learning in my opinion has nothing to do with methods and more so with the inner desire. We need to focus on how to bring this desire to learn out of our youth. It does not help when you consider that the entire education system has been high jacked by the elite as a form of social control. I am paying all this money for higher education but the fact of the matter is with a small amount of guidance and internet access everything I learned in college I could have taught myself and in most ways I have. When I am done with school and I make my way through life with my degree what will be the difference between my education and someone from an Ivy school on the same level? The only difference is there piece of paper cost more so with that they have more social power than me. Am i supposed to believe that the Harvard Psychological Program (if they have one) is so much more advanced in ideas and teachings than a state school? The fact is the wealthy want to stay above everyone else in society and one of the greatest ways to do that is to classify people by their education. The way I see it the most important thing your degree says about you is are you trying to rise out of poverty or are you already a person of wealth.
  • Apr 27 2011: When they are given the opportunity, believed in, inspired and allowed to follow their passions I have seen what our children and young people are really capable of. We need to make sure that those people and organisations that support them - parents, professionals and others - have the confidence to be able to encourage this to happen and that there is a system in place which ensures that this potential is allowed to blossom; wherever it is found.
  • Apr 27 2011: The project is really necessary and urgent,indeed,we have now encountered so many problems on children's enducation ,for example,the kids' ideas can't be easily known and shared especially in china,so our goverment are trying best to improve the educational programs and i believe we will make it in the near future.
  • Apr 27 2011: I bring a fair amount of baggage with me on this topic. The two major problems I see with the current education environment is a lack of understanding in terms of learning styles and learning disabilities (not developmental disabilities or mental disabilities). And a lack of educators that have experienced life outside of a school environment. I have had teachers refuse to modify their teaching style and refuse to teach me. I have only recently had my auditory processing disorder explained to me (in college after I've learned through trial and error how to deal with it). How is a kid suppose to feel empowered when questions aren't being answered? and the teachers that went from college to teaching lack perspective and maturity. No wonder the freshmen keep getting worse every year. I know I have only posed questions but I want this discussion to be about more than the average. It should cover the above average, below average, highly adept, poorly adept, and every combination.
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    Apr 22 2011: I have been learning about Sudbury Schools (and similar models of education), and think they are doing the exact thing that many have spoke of; namely the idea that students are in charge of their education and can take it in any direction possible. They value aspects of learning that are often unseen in schools: trust, decision-making, true democracy, age-mixing, and many others (read more basic info at Currently, all of these schools that I have seen are private. However, with publicity of their success, I could see an expansion of this model into more affordable (subsidized or scholarshipped) versions and possibly into public options. I can't wait to learn more about them.
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    Apr 20 2011: What an awesome idea. I will have to follow this and watch its growth.
  • Apr 20 2011: Ask them and act on the answers?

    Motivating and guiding the willing and able learner is a great concept - some great links on this page that demonstrate this. Surely more students will become more interested in more things more quickly if these innovations are adopted by all?

    However, I suspect the real issue is more "How do we roll out exciting and/or proven new [educational] ideas to all [learning] fields in a timely manner?". Perhaps you could ask this next? I suspect any initiative will be inundated with roadblocks from people dominated by "what's in it for me?". There is some excellent further reading based on a leadership behaviour study by Mitchell and Rossmoore, 2001. The sad conclusion is that although we can step-change results if we go against our own human nature, even with best practice knowledge we behave selfishly. In this case no matter whether we be reluctant politicians, reformists, teachers or indeed students. The practical blocks will therefore manifest themselves in, for example, a politician more interested in their own career, a teacher more interested in having a less troublesome day, or a student keen not to break their gang's social norms.

    Both at once?
    What a fantastic inspiration you are, Sugata Mitra. I'm also attempting to implement this "learning bridge" for some selected university student entrepreneurs here in the UK and am currently in the 1st year of the not-for-profit pilot. They have already been classed as the fastest moving club in the UK. Good for them! There must be lots more examples out there. Perhaps one day any such proven examples will eventually become mainstream.

    Well done TED and well done you. Good luck if you try to do something with the energy you have created.
  • Apr 20 2011: I currently teach 9th grade world history and have taught for more than a decade. I believe we are at an exceptional moment in learning. In fact, I am leaving my job at the end of this school year to plan a middle school where students can take charge of their own learning. See for details.

    As comments below reflect, though, students should not simply be left to their own devices. They need to be mentored. However, students should also be respected far more than the industrial-age school curricula currently respects students. We need a more constructivist model. But constructivist does not mean a lack of rigor.

    The idea for my school is to mentor students for 6th and 7th grade to give them skills and confidence so that they can direct their own learning in 8th grade to follow their passion and make a difference in the world.

    I teach at a high school where the annual tuition is nearly $20,000. I am shocked at how little my students follow the news (Egypt was simply not part of the curriculum, so we were not able to learn more about that topic in class -- I offered to teach interested students more about events in Egypt around the time Mubarak stepped down and 19 students showed up at 7 a.m. on a Friday -- we start school at 8).

    Following the news and taking the time to put current events in context will be a key part of the daily routine at my school. Students also need to appreciate that math is everywhere (economics, science, statistics, etc.) and need to learn as much math as possible. A great unit that I'd love to pursue for about a month (assuming students bought in that it was important to study) would be a look at the BP oil spill of one year ago. How big was that spill and what are the long-term environmental effects?

    If this concept sounds interesting, please contact me at, and see

    The school will open in August 2013 in North Carolina with 2 teachers and 20 sixth graders.
  • Apr 20 2011: I am a middle school ELL teacher. Next year I would like to empower my students by writing a grant to receive technology so that students can track their own data. We live in a data rich world. I have no doubt that students will get excited first to discover their past journey by looking at their own historical data (available in cummulative folders). I also would like to empower them to discover their present, by learning about themselves. As middle school students they are very into discovering themselves and each other, so I would like to have them collect data on their thinking, progress, etc. Finally, as we go towards the end of the year, I would like them to track their futures based on what they have learned about themselves.

    I have my students 5 periods a day so we have an unusual amount of time to learn and discover. I hope to track my lessons using Google's planbookedu including all of my daily plans (teaching grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, and oral language. I have a masters in technology and would like to guide them in creating educational portfolios (digital) of their data and work.

    It's not about empowering kids to change the system, its about empowering kids to change themselves. That they can do!
  • Apr 18 2011: I feel our education system has become a reflection of our world. We spend our time answering questions and informing our superiors rather than passing down in order to train and inform subordinates and students. "Do as I say, not as I do" does not work. If we want our children to learn to be empowered and proactive, we need the people teaching them to be empowered and proactive. This includes the parents as well as the teachers. Whatever happened to thinking outside the box. We have come to a point where we are expected to conform with what is the standard, standard has become our goal.
  • Apr 18 2011: I teach high school science and have incorporated several Ted talks into my curriculum and students have responded well, many have then searched the talk archives and found talks that resonated with them. I would like to expand this but may run into problems if end of course exams will limit my curriculum.
  • Apr 17 2011: TEDxDirigo - Zoe Weil - THE WORLD BECOMES WHAT YOU TEACH
  • Apr 17 2011: My Korean homestay brother, a nine yr old enjoyed watching Hillel Cooperman: Legos for grownups with Korean subtitle on..He understood the content the fact that he love legos... I think it's the adults responsibility to bring out that innate creativity in every child.
  • Apr 17 2011: In my opinion the U. S. public education system will not improve until religion and political ideology are removed from our public school system. Here's it is 2011 and we are still debating on what to teach and how to teach it. We say education is important but it's the first thing to get cut from government budgets. We need to set a standard for math, language, and science that is a national standard. How it is delivered should be left up to the teacher because they know how their student's learn on an individual basis.
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    Apr 16 2011: Children can be empowered if they can use their voice to help foster a richer investment in game-based learning products. This was my vision from TED 2009 Palm Springs about "immersive learning environments":
  • Apr 15 2011: Hi TED Members! I invite you to join a group where you can also share your brilliant thoughts and ideas on facebook!!/home.php?sk=group_206679302683051&ap=1 Hope you check it out! it's worth a look!
  • Apr 15 2011: Great initiative!
  • Apr 15 2011: I feel that students are eager to change the system. I, being a freshman in high school, know that we aren't satisfied with how were meant to be learning either. I've recently found two people who greatly inspire me and help me understand concepts: Vihart on youtube, and Dan Meyer. They both specialize in making math not suck. I'm only hoping right now that their ideas can be translated to the class room at every school in the world. Also I'd like to say that one of my teachers actually showed this site to our class and the first video he showed us was Ken Robinson telling us how much help the education system needed. I find it sort of ironic, but my teacher merely wants us to think and always be looking out for what suits us best at any given moment.
  • Apr 14 2011: I myself am a high school junior form Northern CA, and this is my view on the education system:
    I see mainly two types of kids at school, those who believe having fun is a bigger priority than school, and those with the ideology that life is work, and fun is definitely important, but second to work.
    I realize I am an extremely priviliged kid, both my parents graduated college, my dad makes good money, but most of all, my parents are involved in my life. From school to sports to recreation, they are always there. This leads me to my point that many kids are not as lucky as me; their parents aren't involved, so all inspiration for success in school has to come from themselves. Kids coming from dysfunctional families(which sadly are becoming more of the norm in the US), a lot of the time, don't have that self-motivation. This though, is not an excuse for them to keep acting out their habits they built up through grade school. These kids need a teacher to first call them on their BS, but also encourage them to change their ways. It is the teacher who will make the difference in the education system, provided the kids with the latter mentality won't do it for themselves. Out of the 18 teachers I've had so far in high school(public), truthfully only 5 of them have been like this (Also, I don't think it's coincidental that all but one have had legitimate careers before teaching). Teachers who accept minimum work ethic are almost always the ones who don't care enough to encourage critical thinking, and enforce respectful behavior; as a result, these kids cruise through school, disrupt/slow down class, and generally cause problems until they grasp later in life that they need to get their act together.
    Teachers need to be hired based on character, not credentials. They will be the ones who can make problem kids see the light. Whether or not those kids choose to change their ways is purely up to them, and as far as I'm concerned, if they choose not to, tough luck.
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    Apr 13 2011: I think you empower them by making them aware the system needs to be changed. A lot of kids think it's a PROBLEM that they can't pay attention in class or find applications for their classwork. They have to understand that the current system is not keeping pace with kids minds. Virtual classrooms and visual images need to be encouraged and their should be more urgency to make learning "cool" and personalized.
  • Apr 13 2011: its clear that every day more kids are feeling miserable because of school, and feeling less intelligent or valuable than they really are because they have trouble functioning in a broken system. What kids need to feel empowered is to feel united. Kids should form clubs that talk about changes in the school. Real, meaningful changes. And this club should be open to anyone, not like the various forms of student government. The problem with student government especially in high schools is that either the popular jock with no ideas and more "friends" than brain cells gets elected, and changes nothing, or the prep A+ student that wouldn't dare propose any systematic change that might upset the authorities in education that these students work so hard to please. All kids need change and all kids would benefit from it. Smart kids don't get the enrichment they should get. and all kids are smart at something. If "Isabella" or "Edgar" or whoever is an absolute wonder in psychology, or they can paint like Picasso, or they get biology more than Darwin himself, then it shouldn't matter than algebra is crushing them. Similarly, kids get held back from doing hard algebra because they had trouble in geometry or visa versa, while these are both math subjects, they are incredibly different, having difficulty with one does not mean you'll have trouble with the other. Also, being wrong is absolutely suppressed. In school, there is nothing worse than being wrong. In life, there is nothing better. Students are absolutely horrified to get a question wrong to the point that they won't answer at all.
  • Apr 13 2011: I think many children are not empowered today because of what their parents taught them. It's very hard to empower yourself when you grew up in a toxic family environment from day one. Teachers wont have much chance to empower students who at their very core think badly of themselves.
    • Apr 13 2011: I agree with you, but i believe that the parents are only part of the problem. And its not just the "bad" parents. All parents now grew up in a time where a college degree was a ticket to ride, and not everyone had one. It was a huge source of pride and accomplishment. Times have changed extremely, now degrees are nearly worthless because so many people have them. With less jobs and more people with more education all competing, this creates the adverse effect of raising the bar. The problem is the more we educate with a broken system, we end up making less progress in the long run. A bachelor's degree in anything just means you did well in school. It doesn't signify any expertise in an area.
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      Apr 14 2011: It is difficult for a Teacher to say to a child "Don't swear, it's wrong".... they go home and hear parents swearing. So the child turns to the Teacher and says "So you're saying my Parents are wrong?"
      Very difficult for the Teacher to then say "Yes... your parents are wrong"
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    Apr 13 2011: The education system,Or rather the method of teaching used right now in schools is ,in my opinion,near flawless it's the subjects that need to be changed.
    Hypothetically lets say as an 8 year old you wanted to become a vet,you end up becoming a failed writer,why?
    Because at 8 you where and are not given the option to study veterinary studies.You're given the "option" of studying poetry and all the other non-nonsensical ,arbitrary,banal things that come with it.
    Having a method like this dis-interest's those its directed at,it ultimately leads to dissatisfaction with school.
    What i propose is something rather like Ireland's way of schooling ,But with -again- changes to it,the change being offering them the samples and choices at an earlier age then that of secondary school level students ,13-15.
    Offer the flowers that are growing minds samples of certain courses,have the teachers etc. bring up main points which the teacher themselves find interesting about X topic and which the teacher themselves think the students might find interesting,So as to provoke a natural reaction of curiosity.
    If they like X subject they may continue it,if not they discontinue it and take a course they did like.
    The hope being that they end up with a subject that they have a deep love of and learn and study it not out of legislative compulsion but out of dopamine/seratonin fueled enjoyment.
    While yes their are easier ways to engage students in school they still do not fulfill a vital element.An actual yearning for an education.Presenting students with complex games which are enjoyable and at the same time teach students does not provoke this,neither does music etc.,it provokes a liking for the music/game etc itself.Which,from my point of view,is not the aim.
    Perhaps a combination of both,The students still go through the trial & error stage of choosing which subjects to pick and therefore have a natural interest in X but with the addition of games to it then becomes more rooted /seeded.
    • Apr 13 2011: You make wonderfully valid and thought out points that i whole-heartedly agree with, after your first sentence. The teaching style is completely flawed. The teachers don't engage students, classes are far too large, and students aren't brought into the less. Dictating notes off a power point is a good way to pass a test, but is a horrendous way to learn. Students are put in a competitive situation where the worst thing you could ever be is be wrong. Well, that's wrong, because its that type of stigma that prevents students from learning. Students need to learn why things are the way they are, not what happened. Children are not computers, you do not simply input data into their internal database. Students need teachers that will bring them into the material, so they can discover their interests. Not many people can know what they have a passion for simply by skimming the surface of a topic.
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    Apr 12 2011: The only way to reform education is to prove to the people who manage education in your country, that the alternative would be more profitable/cost less, or get a bunch of altruistic young people to take their jobs, and change the rules. I'm sorry, but its the truth. Most people that have a say dont care at all about the public school system, and it is usually amung the first programs to get budget cuts, as is the case in the united states. The reason for this is because the people calling the shots dont care~ their kids are safely tucked away in private schools that cost over 30,000 dollars a year.
  • Apr 11 2011: Kids probably don't give a toss about changing the education system. I'm sure I didn't when I was a kid. I am keen though to ensure that my child & the other kids that go to her school do get the chance to discuss what they want for their school & their education. We've gotto a place where as parents we participate in the life of the school, including making decisions about how the school operates & what we teach. The question posed though, is very useful becos' I think that will take us to the next level. This is all manageable, this is within my control. I live in New Zealand.
  • Apr 9 2011: I am currently a college student planning to drop out at the end of the term. As far this conversation, I think that we need to be more specific the "education system" we are talking about. It is important understand that not everyone in the education system will have access to the benfits: career, high-paying job, social status. The higher you get in the system, the more students fall off and the ones who do make it find themselves in financial hardships. Of course you have people of wealth whose place in our society allows them easy access and opportunity. But the truth is that most people who enter college, universty and for profit colleges are getting access to loans which they will not be able to pay back. Financial illiteracy is a huge problem that no one seems to address in the system. To be honest, i dont blame the system, I blame the student. A true student should demand education, possibility and hard work, but most students are okay with the system so as long it does not shake their personal boat. As far as changes?? A new cultural paradigm must develop amongst the youth and that only happens through necessity.
  • Apr 9 2011: as a kid, i think the biggest way to reform the educational system would be to try teaching things in a different way. get them intrested in things they're passionate about, and encourage them to think outside the box.- hope this helped!
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    Apr 7 2011: We should show TED talks to kids to empower them to take actions and raise their voice for change in Education system or in anything. I think TED talks share amazing stories which opens up kids mind and empowers them to trust their potential and ideas…
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    Apr 7 2011: "A child educated only at school, is an uneducated child" - George Santayana.
    "Children should be seen and not heard"
    "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink"
    "Experience seems to most of us to lead to conclusions, but empiricism has sworn never to draw them." - George Santayana.
  • Apr 6 2011: listen to what i said to my grade twelve students in the last year that i taught
  • Apr 6 2011: The entire premise of this question goes a long way in explaining just how abysmal general education has become over these last 40 years or so. We have handed the teaching of our children over to intellectually incompetent, entitlement-minded ,hand-wringing cultural liberals whose values and mentality have gone a long way to constructing the very system they now find fault with ,because they know it has failed miserably. I ask everyone to examine the"solutions" they are always advancing."Empowering" the students to"reshape" education. That statement alone wins this week's 'living in an alternate universe' award.
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      Apr 6 2011: Exactly,

      We are not considering alternatives ever, we are simply building on an ancient idea.
  • Apr 5 2011: kids is shaped by their living environment, depends on how we deliver the message of the world they been living to them,
    to empower them, we have to make sure that, what we have done today, tomorow, even yesterday is right,
    and worth to let our children learnt and improved our next generation, 10 years, 20 years,
    it's goes by with what we deliver today
  • Apr 5 2011: I believe your question speaks to how to make the kids start a movement. Traditionally movements in the past start with having a sense of ownership and the perception that something is being taken away. I am not convinced that the majority of the children truly understand how important education is. Most systems have taken out physical education, which was a huge portion of socialization and age appropriate development. I think we would have to start with making the children feel that the system really belongs to them.
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    Apr 5 2011: The answer I think doesn't rely in the students at all (except from the result of their education)! And I think the ideas here suggest such! Education reform is needed, I cannot think of an argument that could claim this idea is wrong! A challenge for TEDsters!
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    Apr 5 2011: "The current system is ineffective because of the 3 month summers we give, brain dumping of all the information is a problem, the hours and dates should be altered"

    They brain dump because most of the information isn't relative to their lives (as so they feel) but can you blame them for feeling that way? I remember my entire education and the most important things I use now are math and English. Science and history classes are just "remember and test on later" type classes. Math, if there is no good teacher there is no absorption. Physical education = 45 minutes play time, maybe once a month class on sexual diseases. Really, the electives were the best part of education!! You got to pick what you wanted after years of being told what to do.

    I agree, 3 months off is bad. Should be 4 and 1/2 months, but more spread out throughout the year.

    School shouldn't start at 8 or 9 (seriously? do parents and the older generations really even know what our younger generations are like at all? or did they forget what they did as kids?) Schools starts at 10 ends at 7, with a hour lunch/free period. That is either a hour per 8 course OR 45 minutes for 10 courses. Every other week is a 4 day week instead of 5. The kids of the future are going to only party more and harder. Let's compensate that. 9 hour school days? What?

    The future involving technology and globalization requires WORK, it requires a lot of work to maintain accordingly. Change is needed immediately. Schools haven't reformed since WWII they just gotten easier so kids can go to college easier. I know for a fact many colleges in New Jersey dropped their standards, whether it is for money or we are more dumb now than ever before in comparison, change is needed.

    ANY CHANGE. Another problem are the "politics" around schooling. Which is a nice way to say money issues, you cannot put a price on our future. Why do lawyers, doctors, and architects make more than teachers? Who taught the lawyers, doctors, and architects!
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      Apr 5 2011: What you say is accurate.

      There have been many attempts to shift to year-round and alternate length school calendars. The difficulties in achieving this are not necessarily related to academics. Businesses, vacation preferences and other non-education centred activities have greatly hampered the movement to changing this pre-industrial calendar.

      Another issue is due to transiency. Unless there is large-scale commitment to changing the school calendar, families (students) find themselves in less than desirable circumstances. Even losing a partial school year can be devastating.
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        Apr 5 2011: The value of education cannot be weighed with personal ideals. Education is so omnipotent, the education system is such a, what's a good word for something similar to a trillion pounds weight on a new born baby.... devastating for real genuine education.

        You would like this additional proposal also Eric, follows is my response to a question.

        "Should we just allow kids to learn in the ways of which their intelligence is best suited, like in Gardener's eight intelligence theory?"

        Gardener recognizes that there are multiply intelligences and we all have them all with the potential to develop them. However the debate on what is an intelligence factor, part, or type is still going on. Some suggest up to 11 intelligences.

        Drop the intelligence concept for a while, it truly is a complex issue.

        Now consider thinking; critical thinking, analytical thinking, problem-solving, so on and so forth.

        We do not change anything in the system except first and second grade together and third and fourth grade together. In which these now two grades no longer have separate subjects, separate ages, or separate books and questions. The subject is thought construction i.e thinking skills, critical thinking, philosophy, logic, anything that involves the idea of "thoughts building on thoughts, while remaining transparent". Now, these kids have been taught for 4 years (maybe not that much is needed) how to construct thoughts logically, orderly, and openly.

        My question is for anyone, what would be the result for these students as they continue with the rest 7 or 8 years of education in normal conditions?

        I personally believe they would excel while being bored with the rest of the education or excel while driving their teachers insane with questions.

        The idea is to set it up so no matter what the subject matter is, a student has the ability to understand that interest to the fullest extent.
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    Apr 4 2011: Public education is deteriorating due to a lack of funding as well as a lack of motivation. Many of the most inspiring and adept teachers are being let go as a direct result of state budget shortfalls. In turn, the majority of teachers that are left in the classroom have been teaching for many years. Unfortunately, for students, most veteran teachers either refuse to incorporate technology from what I coin "The Technological Revolution" or simply don't want to reevaluate and modify their curriculum. Many of the most encouraging, supportive, and novel teachers are being taken out of the classroom. Hence, the classroom is generally more lethargic and less optimistic. Teenagers use technology on a daily basis and need a curriculum that allows them to use technology to address 21st century problems. The 19th century curriculum that is currently in use is focused on students memorizing facts and working in isolation. While many Private schools have created a 21st century curriculum (as a result of attracting better teachers with more lucrative contracts or hiring some of the most technologically adept teachers let go by the Public school system) Public schools have kept the same curriculum that has always been used. Instead of using computers, cell phones, and Ipods to create applications and produce podcasts students are spending time completing basic algebraic equations and reading 18th century literature. With the emergence of new technologies, users are now the creators and the creators are now the valued assets. Students need to learn how to become divergent thinkers through open-ended discussions that address current issues. Solving problems requires learning and learning requires divergent thinking. Therefore, in order to solve problems students and teachers need to be divergent thinkers. Teaching a curriculum based on divergent thinking would require students to adapt, create, and question. Theses are all attributes that employers are seeking.
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      Apr 4 2011: Curriculum is identical for public and private schools.

      Provincial student records do not completely recognize curriculum from even other provinces, let alone so-called special 21st century curriculum written by private institutions.

      The public system's salary, pension and benefits is superior to private schools due to collective bargaining powers, hence many teachers prefer to be with provincial schools.
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        Apr 5 2011: The curriculums are not identical. I live by Private schools that are actually offering TED courses to individuals. They are teaching students about TED and are having them research and create presentations like TED. Private schools have classes on globalization and the Technological Revolution. The wealthiest private schools are offering salaries far superior to public school salaries to attract the brightest mines. I know private school teachers making 80-90,000 dollars a year while public school teachers (at least in LAUSD) can make a max of 72,000 dollars a year. Private school teachers are also able to tutor students for hundreds of dollars an hour. Wouldn't you rather teach at an elite private school with tons of money and passionate, competitive individuals? My school lost an ex M.I.T. P.H.D. teacher to a local private school that gave him a better salary and superior technology to work with in the classroom.
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          Apr 5 2011: Yes, this sounds great, to be sure. I challenge my schools to teach beyond curriculum expectations, which I view as minimal acceptable, whenever possible and appropriate. Enriching the curriculum with such things as TED is fun.

          I am often puzzled as to why the US pays its teachers such low wages (even these private school teacher salaries you quoted). I think it demonstrates the priority the US places on education.
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        Apr 5 2011: If you look at the faculty at elite Private High schools in affluent areas you will laugh. Many of them are P.H.D's and 90 % of them went to an Ivy League school.
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        Apr 5 2011: In the U.S. people make money based on how hard they are to replace. It is much easier to replace Middle School and High School teachers than reality T.V. stars and C.E.O's. America doesn't value education due to the fact that being more educated doesn't mean nearly as much. All of my High School teachers can be replaced in a matter of seconds.
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    Apr 3 2011: The interesting thing is that Montessori systems were developed in the late 1800's and early 1900's and are based on the overall principal that is being envisaged here... only difference is that nowadays there is greater access for the children to a wider world than when this method of education first came about!
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    Apr 2 2011: Create Media that indirectly references this topic in its medium. example: a action video game where you play a first person shooter, that works for a secret government sector like the cia, in an operation to control education.


    A movie/music video/youtube video of some sort where this question is brought up in an extremely "seemingly" unrelated way.

    like putting cheese on broccoli to get kids to eat their veggies.

    contact me for more info/ideas etc..
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      Apr 3 2011: I like the ideas, it's great to have children play a game and then afterwards ask them what thinking and learning they may have done, after they have thought about this they then try the game again and see if the realisation of the learning involved has managed to help them improve in their gameplay and in what they take from the game.
  • Apr 2 2011: I believe it is only a matter of time before education is more streamlined, efficient and empowering for children worldwide, I am trying to get my project launched in a similar way where the knowledge of the world is broadcast to students and families everywhere. I foresee symbiotic relationships between classroom here and abroad, scholarships awards to travel to a country and interview world changers and all based on a curriculum to teach not only sociology and geography, but immerse the program with match, science, anthropology, history, art, culture, music, and everything in between, I am hoping to start

    I you have any advice, I am just one girl trying to make a difference- please feel free to tell me your thoughts!
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    Apr 2 2011: Removing the education system and throwing it into a dustbin itself is the real secret of empowering every kids . Questioning everything and searching for an answer is the in-built scientific quality of every kid. Nevertheless, it is the parents and the dirty education system that kills the in-built scientific quality of the kids. Indeed, we are not permitting kids to live with nature because we think that we are the knower of something, but in reality, it is the known that is preventing us from mastering the unknown.
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    Apr 2 2011: i think the question here may lie in what we belive education referes to. The learning of concepts, history, math, science, politics that prepare the kids to their future? or is it something more? I truly believe so!

    Our education system seems to be working on the Qualifications of teens, forgetting one thing: their Competences.

    This is a globalized world and education everywhere is becoming more homogenous so ppl will be differenciated not by their qualifications (beacuse they'll be similar) but by their competences: "knowing the world", experience different things, getting involved in associations, practicing sports, exploring art... I mean, otherwise you wouldnt be empowering kids; we would be providing them a service that is a righ

    How can schools achieve this? they must incentivate creativity, work on the kids imagination and we should stop stigmatizing failure because its the best way to learn!

    And we should involve kids in these choices.

    what do you want to learn? we should ask them that! How many times where U asked this question when studying?

    Dont get me wrong, i think history, math biology, chemistry, literature, etc are of the most importance but they arent at all enough. And i dont think privatizing education s the would turn education more like a business and would give space to markting education which is not very good!

    My feeling of what the education "system" should be: A circle! The kids are in the center of the circle, of course; society (parents, teachers...) in the circumference because they provide education to the kids. BUT, to this circumference we should add the kids, providing education for themselves! Making choices abou what they want to learn.

    ANd we should faccilitate that choice o them: let them know what's out there for them!
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    Apr 1 2011: simply by introducing in as many as possible schools Transcendental Meditation from His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi . WHy this meditation : - the only self developing program which HAS BEEN scientificaly PROOVEN in 6 books over 500 pages in over 100 countries in many hundreds of scientific researches around the globe in last 30 years! ON WHAT we are waiting of????
  • Apr 1 2011: My fear is that disruptive innovation is a prettified term for decay and experimentation. It sounds so sexy and now, but I find that much of the new in every generation needs revision down the road. When I was starting out in education, whole language and invented spelling was all the rage. Four or five generations of illiterate children later we finally realize that whole language was a bankrupt idea that mainly benefited the enthusiastic academics who made careers and money on it before it trended back. Children are not our lab rats, particularly children born in poverty who can't necessarily bounce back from ideas that sounds better on paper (or video) than in reality. We can experiment with new ideas, but creating ideologies and forcing whole generations to demonstrate their value or lack is socially irresponsible and disruptive to the futures of these children. It looks like more use of the underclass by the connected classes after a while.
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      Apr 1 2011: Those that are held directly responsible for educational outcomes, admittedly are cautious and considered when it comes to experimenting on children.

      You are correct, children are not rats. Laboratory rat experimentation is strictly controlled.

      The Whole Language debacle, which promised to revolutionize learning, should not fade into obscurity. Fads and trends should be left to the fashion runways of life, not in the classrooms.
  • Apr 1 2011: I'm a lifelong educator who's not so sure that children as a whole have change a great deal over the years.... but the WAY they interact with content has changed dramatically and continues to change rapidly. Unfortunately, the majority of our "schools" (led by adults who learned by interacting with content in different ways) can't create the learning experiences that truly tap into and engage today's youth. Technology plays a major role in redefining thinking patters and problem solving steps for our youth. Again, my institutions on limited budgets are unable to maintain these resources.
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    Mar 31 2011: I just find this video very informative and should be considered into the argument of education. (Not the video itself but the concepts the speaker covers)
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    Mar 31 2011: It is our job as educators to find the students passions and guide the direction this takes, we have the knowledge and wisdom - they have the dreams. It isn't about students creating their education it is about teachers and students collaborate in the overall education process. I know children's dreams change often but this comes through following passions and deciding which ones are or aren't for them. If we don't allow them to do so they may be stuck with a passion that may not suit them because they never got the chance to explore it to find wether or not it was for them. As teachers it is our job to foster and encourage this discovery into these passions and ensure that the students learn processes and skills through this that are transferable and lifelong to enable them to continue to discover, search and dream.
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    Mar 31 2011: Many students have lost their mojo, many others haven't! They can help inspire the others. Check out and, whose vision is "for inspired young people to connect their passions with the needs of the world and, in collaboration with their communities, be the creators of a sustainable, just and thriving world." There's a lot of youth passion and energy out there - we just need to help them all connect with each other!
  • Mar 31 2011: i have been a student teacher for two months and i find that many students have already lost their insterest in studying and curiosity in discoverying the unknown. thus its really a tough job for teachers to arouse their intersetsbecause many would respond with"miss, i simply don't have any interest!" no matter how innovative and insteresting your class-teaching- arrangementsare.
    i believe that our curriculum system is in desperate need of real reform. new teachers shouldn't allow themselves bunkered into a exam-oriented teaching manner and do need to practice student-oriented teaching method.
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    Mar 31 2011: It's really glad to see more and more people start concerns about education issues. In Taiwan, "revolution on learning" has been a term considered to ridicule, and has always suppressed by the masses. Still until now, people are fighting about the policy to establish a "12-year compulsory education system". In fact, students in Taiwan are much more restricted by teachers and parents, take tests everyday since the year of 7th grade, and couldn't have much decisions for their future-- because what high school and college they go study depends on the very score on the standardized tests they took.

    I'm a Taiwanese young documentary filmmaker, currently studying in high school. I've been making a feature film with a team for three years, focusing on the standardized test, and it's going to be finished editing in this summer; we've started planning for exhibition. You could come to Youtube if you're interested(This is the demo I made 3 years ago, when we have just started filming):

    I really like the idea of this project. By the way, our team have got plenty of inspirations from Sir Ken Robinson.

    Yours Faithfully,
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      Mar 31 2011: Hi Adler,

      Thanks for sharing your videos. If you haven't become a member of yet, please do so! We'd love to have you a part of our youth community there sharing ideas on revolutionizing education.
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    Mar 31 2011: Great debate so far! I'm really learning a lot from the contributions.Keep them coming.
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    Mar 30 2011: All children should be enroll in schools by the lastest 2 years old, and taught the basics. Then by age 4, a child should already be assess so that , their learing patterns and, their likes and dislike known, as such children would be taught what they have an interest in and not what they care nothing about. With such an approach a child should be able to complete high schoool education by 13 and college by 17. also a feild like maths need a total revamp, since more of the things drills upon a person would never see them again in their life time, thus if a student as mastered basic maths that could be enought. Looking beyond education, persons would know ve the opportunity to be more productive and increase the GDP of their countries.
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      Mar 31 2011: Hell No! Formalized structured education before they have even capable of toilet training? Kids need a chance to be kids before we go forcing them to become "productive members of society". Any developmental scientist will tell you that children are not ready for formalized education until at least 5 years of age: that's why Kindergarten and Pre-School are mostly play.
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        Mar 31 2011: Why do we need "formalized education" at all? Can we explore ideas outside that model?
        • Apr 1 2011: Put a foundation in and then explore ideas. Informal education for children whose parents both work sounds like no education to me. I think the montessori approach for early ed, a classical approach for elementary when they are most interested in "getting it right", a social interaction approach combined with increased rigor in middle school preparing them for high school which should combine multiple approaches including vocational education on the high school campus so that children have options to keep academic and vocational strains in their education plan.
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    Mar 30 2011: With all due respect, I think Clay has an incomplete philosophy of education. But if the question is whether or how to empower children to reshape education system, I think he is right.
    Read/listen to David Whyte's "A Teacher's Vocation" for the heart of what education should do.
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    Mar 30 2011: The souls coming into the world today are much more advanced than we are. We have a lot to learn from them.

    What do kids really need today? Our youngsters need to learn about the laws of nature, meaning the forces operating on our world. Providing the next generation (and ourselves) with this new insight will enable us to restore balance in all areas of our lives: social, financial, health, ecological, political and educational. We will see very quickly how providing youngsters with this knowledge positively impacts all other school subjects. One of the most effective ways for conveying this information is through educational games. Another is learning through examples they get from the adults around them. One of the biggest problems with our current system is that we attempt to teach what is good and bad, and meanwhile kids get all kinds of bad examples from society around them.

    People are subconsciously seeking to gravitate to something that has not yet been fully defined in their hearts. That is the pull of nature that is forcing us to discover the new global connection that connects all people everywhere in an equal manner. The main reason for the uncertainty in our world is the enormous gap between the perfect, simple harmony of nature and the super-sophisticated, pampered beings we have evolved to. Nature is forcing us to match its perfect and harmonious system. This does not require any major change in our lives, except to change our attitude to one another.

    This process may be a challenge for us adults but kids respond to this type of information in a very natural manner.
    • Apr 1 2011: The souls coming into the world today are much more advanced than we are? Why is that? What makes you think so?
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      Apr 8 2011: If the answer is obvious, then I apologize in advance for my ignorance, but I fail to see the correlation between "the laws of nature" and "social, financial, health, ecological, political and educational" problems. I interpreted the "laws of nature" as such things as the Special and General Theory of Relativity and Newtons Laws. I'm a junior in high school, so I think that would qualify me as part of the new generation you are speaking of. I can't understand how knowing the laws that govern our universe can lead to a better, to sum up the things you named, nation. Btw I am a big fan of physics and theoretical physics alike, so lack of knowledge of these subjects is not what is hindering me from seeing it.
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    Mar 29 2011: @Eric, I think we may have skipped a century or so with Piaget. An enlightenment-era philosopher by the name of Jean Jacques Rousseau reaffirms, "before prejudices and human institutions have corrupted our natural inclinations, the happiness of children, like that of men, consists in the use of their freedom."

    Your definition of "pure knowledge" is interesting and I'm sure, very helpful in professional development among public k12 teachers. Thanks for the clarification.
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      Mar 29 2011: Perhaps more than a century. Rousseau died in 1778 while Piaget departed in 1980.
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    Mar 29 2011: The adults in your community are portrayed in a rather dim light. This does present a challenge. However, to be sure, children are and have been recognized as a most important and valuable resource. This is not a recent phenomenon. Jean Piaget's early work on children and learning has been widely accepted in educational circles for quite some time.

    An example of pure knowledge that comes to mind would be mathematics. In the elementary grades, students learn procedures to compute the four arithmetic operations on multidigit whole numbers, often by being shown a series of steps and rules. In the middle grades, students are then expected to perform these same procedures, with further twists. And so it continues.

    The Reasoning and Proof Process Standard suggests that students need to reason about the math that they are learning to make sense of the content.

    The Representation Process Standard explores the importance of creating and using representations to communicate mathematical ideas and interpret physical and mathematical phenomena.

    What reasoning and which representations might middle-grades students use to make sense of the procedures for multiplying decimals? Students face several challenges as they transition from whole-number multiplication to decimal fraction multiplication.

    Teachers should have a deep understanding of the mathematics so that they can better support middle school students' sense making.

    The challenge here is at least two-fold. Students provide feedback that they often see no real value of knowing mathematics plus fewer teachers exhibit a deep understanding of mathematics at the early and middle grade levels.

    This discussion of acquiring knowledge and deep understanding, of course and unfortunately is not exclusive to mathematics.
  • Mar 28 2011: Sugata nailed it. Just finishing his talk. You take that, plus Hans´ thesis plus good water and nutrition and you will get your results.
  • Mar 28 2011: I rather suspect it´s what we don´t know that gives us magical wisdom when we´re kids. A number of recent (to me anyway) ted talks speak directly and inderectly to this point, and it´s a point that is worthy of considering for Einsteins Grand Unifying Theme. Patricia Kuhl put it exquisitely, in short paraphrasing the magnitude of the beginners mind. Salman Khan showed us how student motivated learning is key. Deb Roy showed us how environment and interaction play a role. Sugata Mitra shows me yet another angle as I type. All that said, it was Hans Rosling who showed the lynchpin in his very own story and thesis. He started his career when his mom had time to read to him. We know form Patricia that maximum impact is below the age of seven. We also know that mom is the first and most effective teacher, and that mom is always strapped for time. Therien lies the key element, the wolrds most valuable commodity: Time. So we can add time to mother (teacher) and child (student) at the critical age (as early as possible) plus language aquisition and optimal growth in something like the following equation: A School based on washing machine-created free time for mothers and their young children with play-oriented language exposure and nutritional, book and computer support in any place, preferably at the bottom of the status quo for maximum effect. Ideally it would be an international hostal with discounts for reading books to local kids in the traveller´s native language, an interactive multilingual kitchen, minimal entry cost, space to be outside and lots of room to hang laundry. Have the Khan Academy right there at my fingertips, along with the worlds knowledge in the form of google. A good book in every language. Let it all be voluntary, play oriented and student driven with adult supervision and as many elders in the building as possible. Add a focus on translation ability... A global network of sites with video conferencing for the kids for exchange....
  • Mar 28 2011: I like the talk by Stephen Wolfram ( and agree with him to some extent. I feel it is important to teach the application of theories into different activities that the kids would understand and relate to. I feel that the micro-action where children teach teacher for one day is a good way to improve communication.
    However, improving the teaching system may take sometime, with the website from Khan Academy i think it has enabled parents to be more involved with their kids by checking their progress. I still feel that the website could benefit from the action where the teacher/parent assign work to student to finish through the system (maybe it is already available in Khan Academy).
  • Mar 28 2011: Thats a big question...
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    Mar 27 2011: Maybe we can use a concept in control theory to explain how------feedback
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    Mar 26 2011: Khan Academy can be an answer.
  • Mar 26 2011: Well, am a final year engineering student in India. I've seen students from various backgrounds and what we have ahead of us is not a problem with any one solution.

    There are places that offer good resources but not good teachers, many where there's hardly even a roof to a school but have determined teachers and others where resources and teachers exist but parents can't afford to send their children to school. We need to deal with every problem individually and every problem is unique in its own way.

    For kids to make a difference, firstly they need to be empowered. We still have teachers who punish children for not completing their homework, for failing in tests, etc. In my view, no child should be punished since it has a negative impact. Rather, the child must be inspired to to do better, efforts must be made to interest the child in a subject. And kids must help each other in every way they can. After all, only by sharing can they grow up to be wise!
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    Mar 26 2011: High Ambitions - kids start an education revolution - with concrete results- One simple micro-action solution.
    I love that, fantastic, and I am happy to share two ideas:

    1. micro-action: start a day "School-2.0" every two months.
    Teachers are pupils and are being taught by the children for one day; the children are teachers, give grades and make the daily agenda and choose the topics for the day.
    Set up a 3 x 3 meter twitter wall in the middle of the school.
    Reflect one week later in a joint conference of classes and teachers.

    2. the education revolution:
    youth, each young generation, will - and does good to do so - challenge its educational system: this is inherent. I feel the youth is not challenging enough. So it is not about building a perfect or better system, but about learning to challenge and improve given systems. This teaches you what it means to be a citizen - just by living it. to learn this philosophy of constant revolution I propose a year of high school exchange in a foreign country. Find a foundation to finance 10% of each class to go abroad. revolution will start inevitably.
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      Mar 26 2011: Interesting ideas Bernd. I have a couple of questions.

      for #1 micro-action - what would be the purpose of students giving grades to teachers?

      for #2 - as Sir Ken Robinson pointed out in one of his talks - is there any use improving a broken system? Perhaps it's time to do things differently.
  • Mar 24 2011: We have to let them see the wonders of the mind and really understand how powerful thought is. Once that is established; we will see a shift in our educational system.