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Let students help reform education

Education needs reform. For the most part this is what the general consensus is. However, there is an assumption that change needs to come from the top- the administrative level.

I propose that we instead, reform education from the bottom- through the students, parents, and teachers.

My idea is create an online forum where students, parents and faculty are able to propose ideas to improve their education experience, debate about them, and vote upon other people's ideas. Ideas could be as small as adding a composting bin in the lunchroom, or putting carrots in the vending machines to large ideas like purchase of a laser printer for public use.

If an idea has a certain number of votes and doesn't violate certain fixed constraints listed by the 'constitution' (rules like ideas cannot discriminate between individuals), then the idea is implemented (or the principal can veto it).

I think that this forum has the potential to create socially empowered students--who will understand that their voice and participation can help change the community.

What do you think? Do you think it is feasible?
Would this work?

Thanks for listening to my idea.

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    Jan 1 2012: how about this?: do not create a national forum, but instead, allow schools to implement any changes as they want. so you can have this discussion locally. and different schools can learn from each others' successes.
    • Jan 2 2012: When I concieved the idea, I envisioned this to be implemented upon the school level(not national) which would have the biggest immediate impact and would be the most feasible. I did not wish to create a national forum merely because of the difficulty of implementation.
      I do agree that school-to-school communication is important.
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    Dec 31 2011: "The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
    Your phrase, "take charge", is alaming Albert. Your abstract describes a proposal for additional influence for students, but the bold headline screams the alarming phrase, "TAKE CHARGE!" You should consider re-wording that headline. I see from your profile that you are zealous for implementation of nothing less than a revolution in education.
    Students must be respected and they must be led. When an old man like me signs-up for a class I do not expect to be in charge of my education. I know little about the subject at hand and I expect those trained professionals who do know to teach me, to lead me in learning. Thanks Albert.
    • Jan 1 2012: yes thanks for the advice and comment.
      I changed the headline to be less zealous. That was not the intention.
      Sometimes I am not the best with words.

      Your comment was very insightful. I usually have to think a while before making a response.
      I really don't want to be zealous, but I suppose I am very passionate about the topic.

      I don't deny the true value that lies in the guidance of the teacher. Education takes place when there is mutual respect for student and teacher alike. This proposal isn't about taking power away from teachers, but more about giving an outlet for students, parents, and teachers alike to participate in the reforming of education, while encouraging students to be invested in the community. Education reform has thus far been top-down with administrators creating policy which often could be hit-and-miss. My proposal tries to formulate bottom-up reform in which those near the bottom (teachers, parents, students) are able to voice their opinions in certain matters.

      I admit that my vision for complete autonomy in learning is unrealistic. In this regard you are completely correct. However, I do believe that at some point the student should become teachers and teachers students. Perhaps education is the mutual respect of both teacher and student.

      thanks for keeping me grounded Edward long.
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        Jan 1 2012: Well spoken young man. You need not guard against being zealous, which is nothing more than being ardently devoted to a purpose. You are right, however, to guard against becoming fanatically over-zealous. I think your idea has merit and should meet with general agreement. Best wishes Albert.
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    Jan 4 2012: I agree with Krisztián Pintér
  • Jan 2 2012: As a student myself I believe we have a right to learn what we are interested in. In my opinion the main problem the education system has is the actual discipline. Schools focus to much on punishing students when work is inncomplete or of a poor standard, rather than rewarding the students that have succeeded. I also believe that schools are incapable of punishment in this modern era. These are my thoughts as a student myself. This doesn't contribute much to your national forum idea but if you want to hear input well these are my ideas worth spreading. We need to update lessons with the current technology and focus more on the solving of the problems and the thought process behind it rather than constant memory of knowledge.
    • Jan 2 2012: I agree.
      School punishment can often discourage one from enjoying their education, and can also diminish one's creative potential (as Ken Robinson put it: taking away the child's willingness to make mistakes).

      Education needs to be voluntary, driven by the positive fruits of the education itself rather than the negative whip of punishment. I am not quite certain we need to "reward success" either. I probably am very well naive, but I believe a student is truly ready to learn when they do so not because of a physical reward, but the reward of getting the education itself. Perhaps we should first show the value of getting an education first before they actually get education (although specifics might make this difficult).

      The current system of discipline is geared at getting students to meet standards.
      I ask this: why do we need to standardize students?
      We group students by age groups, require that they learn X amount of material in Y amount of time.

      Does education need to function on a timescale? Do we need to control what we learn and what we do not learn?

      Although I believe there should be a fixed set of basics that we should teach everybody, I do agree with you that students have a right to "learn what we are interested in."

      I take it based upon your suggestions, that you have been in a position where you were not able to voice out your ideas/critique.
      • Jan 2 2012: If education didn't run on a time scale. Could we have classes based on a students ability? I agree that education itself is rewarding, although leisure outside school is much more so. My point is that the reward of knowledge isn't strong enough for a majority of students. Although if school was based on levels of ability there would be no punishment nor reward, only the motivation to finish the course you are interested in.

        I also agree that a certain amount of basic knowledge should be learnt by every student in the education system only at the very basics. Knowledge is becoming greatly accessible around the world through data collection and mainly the sharing of infomatiom through the Internet. As I mentioned before we need to be focused more so on how we use this infomation rather than the information itself.

        You mentioned that "Education needs to be voluntary". Do you suggest that students have a right to learn or not to?
        • Jan 3 2012: Many universities, and even high schools offer self-paced classes. Those students that can pick up on the material quickly will not become bored and demotivated, while students that need to take a longer time will not be forced to have, as Salman Khan puts it, a 'swiss cheese education' where they have large segments that they have not completely mastered, but must move on to keep up. I find, from personal experience, that self-paced classes can leverage from a diversity of skill ranges. Those who are more experienced with the subject area can act as mentors and teachers, and those who teach reinforce the material they have learned.

          However, self-paced classes have disadvantages too. One issue might be that the teacher of the class would have difficulty accommodating for such a diverse population. These classes would most likely work if the student is fully invested into learning the material, rather than completing a mere qualification. For this reason, these classes generally work better in universities- where students are not only more thirsty for knowledge, but also function with the incentive of make "every expensive penny count."

          I believe Salman Khan's talk reveals an interesting way of implementing self-paced learning in grade-schools.

          As for the issue of motivation, part of the problem is that many students (including me at some point) do not "get" education. It is a mere qualification, and the fail to see the relevance of it upon their futures. I think the student needs to have the goal/endgame in order to be motivated. One endgame might be that the student aspires to become an engineer, doctor, etc. In this context, the education becomes a means to achieve one's dreams.

          I believe that education shouldn't be forced upon, however we as human beings have a natural inclination to learn. I suppose some aspects might not necessarily be voluntarily but are crucial to learn in order to function in society (such as reading/writing, and basics).
  • Dec 31 2011: It would be great if students got more respect within the education system. It seems that some people who go into some professions such as police work or teaching may do so for the psychological need to act like authority figures and have power and control over other people rather than for their love of learning or justice. If we could remove that nonsense, screen people into these professions properly, we could accomplish our true goals. Getting iinput from students concerning what they want to learn and the best methods of learning is a good idea. Allowing students to be creative, to make mistakes without absurd consequences is a good idea. If truth prevails in interactions between teachers, parents and students, we will make the progress you seek, Albert. (You may want to change the word "violent" in your statement above, if you can edit it now.)