An alien view of education

Ever wake up and feel like you are a species unto yourself – maybe a visitor from an alien planet?

That’s pretty much been my whole week.

I wasn’t even going to post tonight, since I’ve got more copy to write for my new website, but I have to vent to someone.

Lucky you.

More and more I find myself staring at people talking about what kids need to know, or reading articles about how best to educate our children or watching videos where high school kids are asked who the Vice President is and don’t know and I am torn between wanting to scream at everyone to shut up already, or moving somewhere like, oh, I don’t know, the Andes?  An island in the Pacific?  My home planet (since I am clearly not from this one)?

Creating a standard curriculum that covers what kids NEED to know at any given age is just so ridiculous I can’t believe I ever thought it was normal.   Does this sound extreme?  I guess it does, but have you spent any time with kids?   Are they all the same?   Do they all have the same interests?  Are they automatons?    So why, WHY do they all need to know exactly the same things at the same ages?   It. Makes. No. Sense.

The great non-sensical debate on how best to educate our children rages, with everyone looking at international test scores as their barometer (at least that’s how it seems lately.  Global economy and all, you know).   How do we teach American children so we can compete with, say, Finland?  Of course keeping kids out of school till age 7, not grading them or testing them and having shorter school days – like they do in Finland – is out of the question.  There must be another way.  (But if you are using the test scores as your barometer, then do you think the results in Finland are some sort of fluke?)   Hey, how about we put them in school as soon as they can walk and never let them out for any kind of summer break?!  And make the school day longer and give them more homework.   Yeah, that trend has been going so well for us as a nation – let’s do MORE of what doesn’t work at all!!

How do we know it doesn’t work?   Well, the video that made the rounds on the Huffington Post the other day may not be conclusive, but it does tell us something.  We don’t know how many kids got the answers right, since we are only shown the ones who didn’t, and of course when caught off guard we can all draw a blank, but IF kids are in school because school is the place where they will learn WHAT THEY NEED TO KNOW, and one would presume that knowing the name of the current Vice President would fall into that category, then why don’t they ALL know it?  Without getting flustered, having to mull it over and throwing out answers like Bill Clinton and George Bush?

Guys, what our system is doing does not work.  Not in grade school, not in high school and even to a great extent not in college.    Sean Parker of Napster/Facebook fame would agree with me on this.  So would Michael Ellsberg, Peter Thiel, Dale Stephens, Matt Mullenweg, Danielle LaPorte & Lynda Resnick, just to name a few.   Don’t recognize all of those names?  You can Google them (or read Michael’s book), but I’ll tell you what they all have in common.  They are successful not because of the schools they went to, but despite them.

School is not the only place to pick up general knowledge.   In fact it is not even a good place, since the facts are usually presented out of context and with little or no relevance to actual life or events.    There may be holes in knowledge gained through the course of living, since different people focus on different things in their lives and families, but those are holes easily filled when the necessity arises.

Maybe all this is going unnoticed because those of us who realize it are not speaking a language anyone else understands.

Aliens.  I knew it.

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