Well it would seem education is the topic of focus these days, but of course their (the media’s) focus has once again missed the target. Example: I listened to a report on some of the top 10 schools and they were surprised that many of them were in the South. Then the interviewer asked what these schools were doing different to achieve their great results. The answer was more or less focusing on college level courses and getting their students really ready for college (many of them were charter schools). Missed the point entirely. Charter schools operate with different rules and more importantly, can be selective about who they entroll and disenroll. Looking at the top 10 schools that has a student body totally unrepresentative of the general population and funding is mostly meaningless.
I actually made a comment last weekend on the Up with Chris Hayes Web Site that we ought to look at the Finn system since they are in the top 3 and see what we could learn. Almost immeadly I got a response telling me the Finn system was not the problem and it was ethnic diversity. Actually the Finns do have a growing ethnic diversity population (it doubled in the last 10 years) and when compared to many of our states of similarr size to Finland with similar ethnic diversity populations, their system outperforms us hands down. The point here is not whether we can learn anything from the Finns, but that there is this knee jerk reaction to refuse to look.
But what really bothers me the most is that we don’t seem to be able to even discuss what education should be for. Are we trying to create worker drones for industry or are we trying to create good citizens? This is not a frivolous question. Should we be training people to work in the markets (say like a software engineer) or should our system develop the mental capabilities to think critically, have some perspective on history and literature, and be more adept in many environments. The answer is both. You wouldn’t know it if you look at what most business leaders call for in reform, and what the “No Child Left Behind” competition and testing is leaving of our education system. Basically the meterics on education are, is it useful to industry now, and if it isn’t measureable with a test and aggregated statistics, it is not meaningful.
In some ways I think the mess we are in today is a reflection of our failed education system and our failure to reecognize that we ought to spend more time developing thinking individuals instead of test taking whizes. Brillance is not an accumulation of facts, but an understanding of those facts in terms of what we have learned throughout our human history. Basically everything you need to know to be a well adjusted and competent individual is contained in our great literature. Understanding the mistake of becoming a Christian nation is enccompassed in history and its lessons. See 300 years of wars in Europe. The idea that business knows what is best for us would be ground into dust if we could just remember our own history of the Robber Barrons and why labor unions are so necessary. Our current economic crisis and its solutions are contain in both our and other’s near term history. Shakespeare has covered the lust for power and the depths of evil from A-Z.
But we seem to have become a nation where data is important, but the meaning of data is poorly understood. It builds a world where people can choose their facts to match their preconceptions and with no real perspective or critical thinking to challenge ourselves. So we know more, and understand less. Meanwhile we refuse to even pay for poor outcomes. Are a great nation or what?