We can’t keep doing things the way we are in education. The costs are unsustainable and results are questionable, especially as connectivity, content distribution, and career options evolve. It’s not just about the money.
While we must have a discussion about educational goals and measurements, educational architecture must also be simplified. The terms nursery, kindergarten, grade school, middle school, junior high, and high school need to be abandoned along with their dubious graduation ceremonies. They’re outmoded and distract from the natural continuum of childhood development.
We must start by pushing educational investment down in age and understand the transition to college differently. The catch-all term “college” no longer imparts any meaning to that educational period in a young person’s life.
“Lower School” would start at age 3 and be mandatory at age 4. It would be hyper-local and would continue through grade 5. “Upper School” would be consolidated regionally and run from grade 6 through a senior year at grade 11, losing the last wasteful year of high school.
Assessment of a student’s acquisition of “transferable skills: i.e. defined proficiencies and performance indicators, along with common-core exposure would determine graduation from Upper School.
Entrance to a Career Institution could occur at any stage in the Upper School when the student has demonstrated these proficiencies. Students could also attend while completing their final year in Upper School. Also, in the last Upper School year, every student would have to maintain a business or non-profit internship, vocational or technical apprenticeship, or a defined course of custom study for the last Upper School year. Ideally, education cost would include a semester abroad at any of a network of international schools.
Based on aptitude and choice, Upper School graduates could enter the work force or continue on to a professional institution to pursue professions in healthcare, law, finance, or education. Alternatively, they could enter a STEM institution to pursue advanced education in engineering, IT, math or science. Or, they could opt for advanced vocational disciplines like construction arts or food systems. Finally, they could choose a traditional liberal arts and humanities institution. These Career Institutions would look more like Quinnipiac or Champlain Colleges with clearly defined career paths.
Having described such a vision for public education and college, I still believe the greatest determinants of educational progress in the best school system we can devise are the learning culture within the home and the economic security of the student and his or her family.
We therefore must not only redesign and redefine our schools, understanding the diversity of learning styles; we must also re-examine the intellectual milieu in our own homes, the example we set for our children and the respect we instill in them for what happens in school. Tax-grousing, helicopter-parenting, faux self-esteem-builders, “edutainment,” trigger-warnings, and other risk-eliminators, are all enemies of true learning. Our children will, in fact, be who we are, not who we tell them to be – at home or in school.