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Author Topic: Can we/should we save the public school system ?  (Read 1882 times)

etienne

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Can we/should we save the public school system ?
« on: October 18, 2018, 07:43:56 PM »
Why this topic ? because I just read a very good book "The Tyranny of Metrics" written by Jerry Z. Muller, and had a meeting in middle school for the kids this afternoon.

About schools, one of the thing that the book says is that politician reduce the required level in order to get in the higher classes so that statistics look good. Using that method, Luxembourg was able to increase the number of pupils able to go to a normal high school. Well, if you still value knowledge, kids go to school during the day, and do home schooling the week-end. It’s not really fun but it’s the way to do it.

Looks like the education level first goes down because politics doesn’t provide the right learning environment, then when too many kids fail, they just reduce the requirements and it is the next school that will have to catch up. Once mandatory schooling age is passed, who cares.

Now in middle school, budgets have been cut once again (well, it’s the other way around, stable budget for always more pupils), and report cards have been adapted, if the child works normally, it’s empty, because there is just nothing special to say. They are in a special school that should bring more contact with real life, but this year a new rule requires that these extra activities make profit, it’s a political requirement so that it really looks more like real life. I already tried that in the context of social help in Haïti, if teaching has to make profit, it fails on one of the objective, profit or teaching, depends if the teacher wants a salary. Looks like a school change is required.

addendum : one of the reason why schools need always more ressources is this electronic screen syndrome. Internet is not only an issue regarding climate change.
https://kidslox.com/blog/electronic-screen-syndrome/
« Last Edit: October 18, 2018, 08:39:43 PM by etienne »

Neven

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Re: Can we/should we save the public school system ?
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2018, 10:58:12 PM »
The problem with school, in my opinion, is that it will always support the dominant culture. For instance, in Nazi Germany, schools supported National Socialist ideology. The same in communist countries, where kids were taught what was necessary to make the system work.

It only follows that things are the same in the present day. We live in a consumer culture, and so that is what schools support. This means that everything is geared towards making children good consumers, and if they want to consume, well, they'll have to produce (to make money and produce the goods that can be bought with that money). There are all kinds of psychological incentives and basic conditioning procedures to mould children's brains to benefit the system. This, of course, is a great hindrance to critical thinking, non-conformity and reaching the full potential to lead a happy and fulfilling life.

So, should we save the public school system? You can't save it if you don't change the culture. But even then, what you want to save, is the kids. You don't save them by putting them in an office-like environment for 8 hours per day, boring all creativity and inventiveness out of them, and hoping that their teacher belongs to that 10% of balanced, intelligent people who will not screw up your kid for life, if the rest of the class hasn't done that already.

And for what? 20-25 years of learning and studying to please mommy and daddy, for a good-paying job that may not even be there at the end of the line. So that you can stress and work like crazy for the rest of your life, massively contributing to AGW and other planetary problems in all kinds of ways.

I agree, Etienne, with electronic screen syndrome, but even worse is the food that is put into kids. The only way school would work, is if it would provide the best and freshest food possible, and only use screens to display the best teachers on any subject, with the physical teachers only there to assist. In an environment where kids can move about freely and kids learn by playing and doing, each pursuing whatever their interest may be (or not pursue anything at all). If kids have good brains, they don't need school.

But again, it will never work in this culture. Because you can take a school out of a culture, but you can't take the culture out of a school. Which is why alternative schools aren't really all that alternative. The kids bring the culture with them. And the government censors anything that doesn't produce obedient workers who will boost GDP (in other words, further increasing and concentrating wealth).
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etienne

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Re: Can we/should we save the public school system ?
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2018, 10:03:22 AM »
Hello Neven,
I agree that the first aim is to save my kids, but on the other hand, we put "educating girls" in the top climate-friendly actions. Are we stupid enough to believe that it is only for Africa ? And saving other kids is only possible with the school.
Furthermore, I believe that most teachers are also victims, just like the kids. You can't be happy when your job can be sumarized with just one word : "nonsense". School principals might be a more political job. The 10% balanced teachers are probably the few that have not reached the burned out status, well, I guess many people are smart enough to pull the break before.
Thanks for the comments,
Etienne

Hefaistos

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Re: Can we/should we save the public school system ?
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2018, 04:44:06 PM »
The problem with school, in my opinion, is that it will always support the dominant culture. .... We live in a consumer culture, and so that is what schools support. This means that everything is geared towards making children good consumers, and if they want to consume, well, they'll have to produce (to make money and produce the goods that can be bought with that money). There are all kinds of psychological incentives and basic conditioning procedures to mould children's brains to benefit the system. This, of course, is a great hindrance to critical thinking, non-conformity and reaching the full potential to lead a happy and fulfilling life.....

Thanks for your thoughts on this, Neven.
We once lived in a world where there were no public schools. Schooling was done at home, rich families could employ someone as a teacher for their kids. Nowadays, in our affluent societies, we all have to pay taxes so that society can employ those teachers. Consequently, we got public control of what is being taught. We got a lot of ideological indoctrination as an important part of schooling.
With public schooling, we also got peer group pressures among class mates. Sometimes we see explicit bullying, but mainly we see conformistic adaption, further streamlining our kids. Many kids suffer psychologically from this, but  they aren't really given any alternatives to traditional schooling.
In Sweden, where i'm from, sending your kids to school is compulsory. If you refuse, and want to home school, you will be heavily and repeatedly fined, and eventually, if you still don't comply, the social authorities will come and take your children away from you. The same system as in Germany, b.t.w. Some German families are actually living as political refugees in USA as a consequense (there is a US law that gives them this possibility). Many Swedish families emigrate to avoid the system, and the ideological conditioning of their kids. We're one of those families, as that's the only way we see to preserve our kids from all this mental grinding going on the schooling system.


etienne

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Re: Can we/should we save the public school system ?
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2018, 11:41:09 PM »
Well, the problem we have in Luxembourg is that the teaching part of the school doesn't work anymore. School looks always more like a nursery where kids have to be taken care off, but not educated, even in middle school.

Rodius

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Re: Can we/should we save the public school system ?
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2018, 09:11:20 AM »
I actually have been homeschooling my two kids for the last two years because I felt the schooling system, culture and politicization of what is taught rather disturbing.

I figured that I could replicate what schools are meant to do in 1 hour a day. Read, write, math, science, language, music, art.
For the rest of the day they do what they want, learn what they want, travel with me, museums, forest walks, visiting other homeschooled families (anyone who thinks homeschool hurts socialization needs to understand we need breaks from that just to get a proper rest).

What I have found since removing them are kids that are happy, unbullied, self learning, proactive and hyper aware of the world around them.
We recently took a one week drive to visit NSW, Australia (from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) to visit the severe drought regions and the disappearing Murray River because of their concerns over climate change.
We all learnt that the crops being grown are water intensive in a dry region, cattle cant survive, and deforestation is epidemic.

I have no idea what they will do when they grow up, but I do know it is unlikely to be a standard job, it will be something they care about, and they will be motivated to do it well and with passion.

I mention this because at school, finding kids who are this motivated is rarer than it should be. My kids are not special, or super smart, they are normal kids who, because of the freedom to learn what they want, suck up information faster than I can find it sometimes. What I have learned about gravity broke my brain, they got what took me weeks to learn a few hours.
Climate change bothers them and not because of what I teach them, they are figuring that out for themselves (my kids are one reason I joined this forum, but I have stayed because I cant stop watching the Arctic train wreck).

If schools allowed even half of what I have seen while homeschooling, the world would be far better for it.
And I say that not just because of my kids, but because almost all of the homeschooled kids have  similar motivation to learn.

To me, I think schools are needed, but they need to stop the forced learning, rigid practices, and remove the unending political interventions.

etienne

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Re: Can we/should we save the public school system ?
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2018, 09:59:33 AM »
Thanks for the comments. Looks like home schooling is a solution. But you shouldn't hope to repeat the model in the context of a school, it just doesn't work, I have seen enough failure to tell you not to try.
In home schooling, you have few kids with one teacher having a strong bond together. Maybe it can work on a pilot project, but when you "industrialize" it, or I should say repeat it in many places, you will have budget constraints, personal constraints, customer-provider constraints... that will just make it impossible.
I have tried non forced learning schools, and when we changed back to the old fashionned system, it was always better. One teacher alone can't motivate 15 pupils to work on their own, it's impossible, each child has it's own rythm and it's always the one in the "make a break" modus that gets the most followers. Now in middle school, we are going back again to the old fashionned system (after 5 weeks), and I hope we get it right.
My kids really don't want home schooling, it's not in the culture here so you are really alone when you do it and have to create the curriculum all by yourself. We should have started it earlier.

Neven

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Re: Can we/should we save the public school system ?
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2018, 08:48:40 PM »
My kids really don't want home schooling, it's not in the culture here so you are really alone when you do it and have to create the curriculum all by yourself.

I can attest to that. Homeschooling is easiest in Anglo-Saxon countries. Not a lot of trouble with the authorities, and plenty of other families in the area to compensate for the social aspect.

And like you said, Etienne, the current system is really bad for teachers too. I feel for those people. Rather than teaching, they should be guiding more. I've always thought that it would be best to have teachers compete in certain subjects (like in a talent show), and the one who is most passionate, knowledgeable and inspiring about a subject, gets to make an entire series of videos explaining aspects of it, that kids can watch. And kids should be able to select their own teachers (Ivan Ilich wrote some interesting and prescient things about that in Deschooling Society).
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kassy

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Re: Can we/should we save the public school system ?
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2018, 06:42:56 PM »
The really easy argument is that not everybody can homeschool their kids.

Public education is meant to equalize the playing field in society.

Off course the situation differs in each country but for the Netherlands we can conclude that if you want to be a knowledge economy you might want to pay your teachers more.

Then you have to undo some disastrous stuff politicians dreamt up and then sadly made into law.
(return the Special schools possibly integrated in cities, reduce useless paperwork etc).

Oh and it should mainly do the basics very well. And then offer extra challenges for kids who are ahead of the curriculum.



etienne

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Re: Can we/should we save the public school system ?
« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2018, 09:04:26 PM »
When I first thought of this topic, I first wanted to name it just "can we save the public school system?" But it seemed so complicated to me so I added the question "Should we ?".

Somehow, I believe that we must save it, just like the climate, but just like kassy said, we have to undo some disastrous stuff politicians dreamt up and then sadly made into law. And that's really difficult because kids are always more separated of their parents and so parents don't know anymore what is good and what is not for them, so many people are dreaming with the politicians of an impossible perfect school, instead of a normal school that teaches to the kids.

SteveMDFP

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Re: Can we/should we save the public school system ?
« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2018, 09:35:01 PM »
At least in the US, home-schooling families are relatively more likely to be climate-deniers, Creationists, anti-vaxxers, and gun nuts.
I don't think letting just any parent become their kids' teacher is terribly wise.
At least real teachers have to have a real degree.
If we want the next generation to be science-aware we need professional teachers.

Rodius

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Re: Can we/should we save the public school system ?
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2018, 01:23:40 AM »
Schools are not doing the job.
The US isnt ranked all that high given the amount of money spent on education in schools.
To me, the US needs to improve its act in science and math.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/

Homeschooled people are being favoured by Universities and a few other averages to consider when thinking about homeschooled people.

https://www.nheri.org/research-facts-on-homeschooling/

While you (SteveMDFP) believe homeschooled people "are relatively more likely to be climate-deniers, Creationists, anti-vaxxers, and gun nuts" the evidence doesnt agree with you.

Even in my experience, I dont agree with you.

I have met anti vaxxers who homeschool, but they also school their kids. Not sure if there is a connection between being an anti vaxxer and whether they school or not.
Religion is everywhere.... there are even schools funded by govts (Australia, not sure of the US) that have a religious base. Are those schools substandard too?

I have noticed that it is more likely that climate deniers have been schooled. While I am in Australia, the govt here is very climate denying and they decide what is taught in school, that doesnt make for a pretty picture to me. The US has Trump, what is he doing on a Govt level to deny climate change?

Parents, for the most part, dont need a degree to teach primary level information. I dropped out of school at 16 and I taught my son to read, he is slightly above average in math, is highly critical of information and requires researched evidence before deciding, has his own religious views (I am not religious, his mother is, he is undecided).
I also am not rich. My wife works, we live on an income that is just above the poverty line. And this is not as unusual as you would think.

My experience is clearly anecdotal.
The research isnt, and it tends to a agree with my anecdotal experience relatively well.

Homeschooling, when applied with effort, works better than the schooling system we have in place at the moment.
It shouldnt be, but it is.

etienne

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Re: Can we/should we save the public school system ?
« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2018, 07:24:14 AM »
I wonder if the issue is not that schools tries to prepare kids for work and not for life.After the french revolution, the school had to train future citizen, when I was a teenager, we were trained for life, and I feel that now schools only want future workers.
The problem is that work is something that changes all the time, it's why lifelong learning has become so important, but if you have learned things for life, I believe that you can better deal with all what can happen at work and at home. If you prepare kids for work, you provide them knowledges that are valid right now, but maybe not anymore in 10 or 20 years.