Right now I'm staying up with my cousin who's a senior in high school. It's midnight on Sunday, and she's busy finishing up her homework for the weekend. There's a roll of tape on the coffee table, along with pink ribbons, a glue stick, cutout pictures from glamour magazines, and a bunch of construction paper. For her weekend psychology assignment, she has to make a book using a vocab word as the header for each page.
I rant about school every once in a while here, but the truth is that it had been a long time since I'd really experienced what school was like. I dropped out in 2001, twelve years ago. Usually I visit my cousins during school vacations, but they're in school this time, so I've had the chance to live vicariously, help with homework, and remember just why I disliked school so much.
My cousin's project, as best I can understand, and as best she can understand, is essentially busy work. She had to spend an hour or so writing some paragraphs that were related to psychology. Then she spent four or five hours finding pictures, cutting them out, printing the paragraphs, cutting them out, arranging construction paper, pasting, and binding. It's insane.
Her younger sister, a sophomore in high school, asked for help with biology. Some of the material was really relevant and useful stuff, but that material was buried in a bunch of cruft. Some questions were so ambiguous that you would have to read them two or three times just to understand what they wanted you to answer. Some questions were made difficult not to simulate real-life situations, but just because the underlying material was too intuitive and basic in its natural useful form. Then others covered material that was so insignificant that it is guaranteed to be forgotten within a week, and would have to be relearned from scratch if my cousin ever were to become a biologist.
I had no real responsibility to help with the homework, but I felt frustrated just becoming involved with it. The material wasn't challenging, it was just offensive. It was an insult to her time and intelligence.
On the other hand, her Chinese homework seemed reasonable to me. Vocab was pretty well chosen, and although the homework was repetitive, that's how you learn a language. Her older sister, now finished with her psychology project, is taking notes from a textbook. Even though it's late and she's tired, she agrees that it's worthwhile to do.
It's clear from looking at the work these girls are doing that school has lost its way and is only indirectly related to learning. There is good knowledge to be gained, valuable practice to be executed, and worthwhile studying to be done, but all of that is buried in a mountain of rubbish. The only appropriate strategy for such a huge load of mostly time-wasting work is to go as fast as possible, learn as little as necessary, and get the bare minimum done.
In high school, I learned some programming. I learned some math, probably about 20% of what was thrown at me. English did not teach me to write or read any better than I did before. Thanks to a great physics teacher who really cared about learning, I learned a lot in physics. I learned roughly zero in chemistry, and not much more in biology. Despite loving history, I can't remember a single thing I learned in history class. Spanish didn't seem very efficient at the time, but I speak it pretty well now and probably owe a lot of that to the six years I took in school.
Given the hours I spent in school, that's a pretty poor payoff. When I see the ratio of useful work to useless work that my cousins are engaging in, the poor return isn't surprising at all. School should be a wonderland of knowledge, learning, exploration, and peer socialization, but it's not. It's compulsory drudgery that insults more than it educates.
Where did we go wrong? I don't know if school was ever centered around learning, but it's certainly not anymore. It's now about adherence to petty minutiae like stapling papers in the "right" direction (or you lose points) and "participation" that amounts to regurgitating what the previous student said. My cousin was graded on how she decorated note cards, and lost points because she forgot to dot i's on those note cards.
Children love to learn, but what school teaches above all is to hate learning. The joy of discovery is squashed with prison-like rigidity and irrelevant forced work. So much is assigned that students come to school sleep-deprived, which is the worst state for actual learning. Besides teaching kids to hate learning, school also teaches mindless obedience and the importance of spending your life doing things you hate.
I'm not sure I'll be able to send my kids to school. Montessori may be a good choice. Unschooling preserves love of learning and has the potential to impart way more useful knowledge, but the friendships I made in school were one of the most important parts of my childhood, and they alone make me glad I went to school. Sometimes I think that the best possible option is to send a kid to school, tell him that grades are not important and that he doesn't have to do any homework, and then spend that time teaching him useful things.
I'm doing another round at Give Get Win, Sebastian Marshall's non-profit. For $20, you get in on a Google Hangout I'll be doing with 9 people. Each person will have some time to ask specific questions about travel, being a nomad, or finding adventure, and I'll do my best to give you specific advice. Best of all, all of the money goes to charity.
Photo is a shot from the island.
This is by far one of the most biased articles I have ever read on a blog in a very long while. Just because you hated school, doesn't mean it's useless for other people!
A couple of years ago maybe I would agree with you, but I can't count how many times the things I thought were "rubbish" or "busy work" in school turned out to actually be useful in my life. Like the 2 years of dreadful accounting classes I had to do in my secondary school (equivalent of your middle school) that ended up helping me start my first business, or the seemingly pointless algebra I had to learn in primary school that I use every other day whether i'm calculating which bargain is better, and I could go on!
And it's not just me. I'm pretty sure when you learnt programming in school you didn't know you'd start SETT did you? But somehow that chance encounter might have changed your life. And that's what school is about. It's like a source of general knowledge to take you forward in life.
And now a question for you, Tynan, if a lawyer who went to your school said that the programming classes that probably changed your life were "rubbish" and should be removed for more "useful" things, would he be right?
When it comes to primary school algebra, I don't think that school teachers it in a time efficient manner. Playing World Of Warcraft might be roughly as efficient at teaching those concepts than school. I'm not even advocating World Of Warcraft.
Perry I think you overrate the influence that school programming classes had on Tynan starting SETT.
I once talked with a teacher who said it was important that students learn to use Wikis. After all Wikis are modern technology and life has to prepare students to use modern technology.
I never had any problem with using Wikis even through I didn't learn it in school.
I have sat a year in a programming class in school where at the end nobody of the students wrote could write any code besides myself who could write the relevant code also when the year started.
In Germany where I live nobody in a good school where high class parents send their children is taught accounting. It's not in the curriculum. Most of the business owners in Germany did learn their accounting for themselves.
If you want a child to learn accounting, get the child to start a small business and explain him accounting in the process.
You're right, I could be overestimating the influence it had on Tynan, but my point is still valid; a lot of stuff we're forced to learn in school has a positive influence on us in real life.
I agree with you about the programming classes, I had a similar experience in University. School, just like every other service, needs to constantly be improved, but it doesn't mean it is useless!!!
The thing I love most about the "rubbish" (as Tynan calls it) in the school system is that it makes you learn a bunch of different stuff without forcing you onto a specific career path. So when you're actually mature enough, you can pursue literally anything because you learnt a little bit about it in school.
Isn't that what happens in school anyway? "Someone" decides the curriculum will be this or that, and most of us either fall through the cracks or learn outside of the classroom.
I personally learned most of what I use now in my own business outside of school. Things like percentages, etc. I didn't fully understand until adulthood, because I didn't have the "real-world" experience until then. Wouldn't we be better off immersed in life from the start? Especially considering that we have the knowledge bank of the Internet within our grasp?
We get our kids to do voluntering work in teaching orphans .We make our kids understand business at an early age.
We have decojunction.com where children are promoting handicraft in the society,school friends,neighbours etc and learning how to talk business and make money or get treated in the best hotels of choice.We make them feel great in achievements.
That "someone" is an education board that has spend decades researching the best way to teach our kids. It's unfortunate that sometimes we fall through the cracks, but the truth is one size can't fit all. The education system can't embrace every single kind of learner. It's just a hard fact. Even overly praised education systems like Montessori don't work for a lot of kids.
Yes, there is no teacher like experience, but how can you be sure that you are immersing your kid in the right things?
Even with years of research they're still guessing. Studies have repeatedly shown that involved parents result in better education for kids. In our family the system hindered our ability to be involved with our kids so we took it out of the equation. Our kids have improved steadily ever since.That's the thing - *no one* is absolutely sure about what they're doing. It's a fact of the human experience. We most certainly can't control every aspect of our children's lives. We can at least focus on building nurturing, supportive learning environments for our children through homeschooling/unschooling/"alternative" schools instead of trying to micromanage it all in the system.
We cannot create universal education but can create champs out of ordinary kids treating them with infinite love and compassion that a trainer need to show to kids for high performance.Just like taste i like strawberry ice creams,i can teach all who like the taste .I cannot make everybody like the strawberry ice cream.Seing the success of our tutorials results we have decided to start a school next year to serve 20 kids.All the cost will be borne from voluntary donation from our patrons in vipassana meditation center.We will teach our kids free of cost.we have corporates who will donate to the cause of pure education
One of my favorite authors, William Goldman, wrote about the movie industry, "Nobody knows anything." I think that is largely true about life, in general. The problem the public education system has is that it has to "accept" every sort of kid and attempt to give them a minimum "education." Some kids can not be taught anything by anybody and some kids are sponges who can not get enough input fast enough. Put those two characters in one room and you have chaos and an overwhelmed teacher who will just try to retain some sense of "order," wasting time for everyone involved.
So a psych class where the homework requires 1 hour of psych-related research and 4 hours of decorating is good? He's not saying school is bad, he's saying it's terribly inefficient.
Tynan learned to program by himself, he had a blogpost about how he taught himself ground up. School doesn't fail per se, sometimes it does teach, but you can learn much better yourself buying 3-5 books on amazon and looking up informational videos online. Doing busy work that you won't apply in real life is what tynan is reffering to as useless. Just cause a little bit of the algebra or accounting your learned is school in helpful doesn't mean school is a good approach to learning. I learned more accounting reading books, watching videos and tinkering with programs people in the real world actually use on a day to day basis .
anyways again I find it funny that you use tynan learning programming in school, when, he didn't learn programming in school, he learned himself via free online resources and because he was motivated. Which is exactly what tynan is pointing out in this article, you should decide what you want to learn and use learning as a sort of investigative process where you apply what you have learned in an organic manner, real world manner instead of to do stupid busy work like his cousins seem to have been doing.
Well he DID say he learnt some programming in high school and I am willing to bet he doesn't currently think of it as useless busy work! You see the thing is you can't say for sure what is busy work and what isn't till you've decided on a career path and that typically happens when you're old enough to make an informed realistic decision.
Imagine your five-year old son comes to you and says he doesn't want to do useless busy work like Math and English because he wants to be a garbage man when he grows up. Would you let him stop going to school?
You're making a straw man argument and not answering the real question.
Is school, in its current state, effective at teaching and motivating students ? No.
There are countless other ways to teach that are multitudes more effective, interesting, and engaging than school.
Thus why would you send your son/daughter to school if it is not effective? Tynan mentions friendships, which is probably why I would send my son to school. I would probably send them to elementary school as well, since its a good place to make friends, learn basic social skills, and have a lot of fun. But middle school and past high school, debateable.
That's a blanket statement that's based on your personal opinion. Fine, I'll agree it's not a one size fits all, but neither is any other method of education. There are plenty of kids who can't cope with the over-hyped teaching methods such as Montessori, but I can't say they totally crap because they do work for some kids.
Regular education isn't perfect, but what it does give every single kid is the opportunity to learn a bit of everything albeit even if they are forced to. Any psychologist worth the paper their degree is printed on can tell you motivation doesn't always work. Willpower is a limited resource, especially in kids. Sometimes you have to make kids do what you know is best for them, whether they think it's rubbish or not and when they're old enough to make mature decisions then they can decide where they want their life to go.
We support our kids till the point they are able to make good money.Its like saying we are like Gym trainers who know every muscle for you to fight in the boxing competition.In the same way we help kids to fulfill their dreams.My son in India studies Hiindi,Marathi,Sanscrit etc which he does not need to become a football player.Our skills should be marketable.We encourage our kids to teach in our teaching style with perfection in education.Kids get excellent marks and huge appreciation.Every teachers asks our kids Who taught you?Which tuition do you go to?
I signed up for the deal on Give Get Win the day this came out, and still haven't received an e-mail about it or anything. How is that supposed to work?
I really agree that the 'traditional' school system needs an overhaul. In Australia, at least, a kid's education seems to depend on the personality of the individual teacher. If the child's lucky, their teacher might actually enjoy teaching. If not, they sit there and memorise a text book. My mother, a trained English teacher who's been at the same disadvantaged school for 35 years is now a 'special ed' teacher for undiagnosed but 'troubled' learners. She gets to deal with all the poor kids that have been failed by the system in various ways, and sees firsthand how unproductive the 'sit down, shut up and read' approach is.
You should check out the Steiner/Waldorf system - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldorf_education. My partner's father teaches primary ('elementary' to you?) at an independent Steiner school in Australia. It's generally considered a bit 'alternative' and 'hippie', but the approach to learning is fantastic, especially for younger kids.
The only downsides he's found are the politics involved within the staffroom, and some of the more off the wall parents that it attracts - but he finds the teaching system inspiring. He's a talented musician and has the freedom to incorporate music, dance and storytelling into pretty much every lesson, and the kids focus on hands-on and interactive learning, rather than just reading and reciting. Teachers are also encouraged to target each learning style, giving every kid the opportunity to excel. It's wonderful.
These young kids end up having far more advanced skills in expression and reasoning than I remember having in my traditional education (Catholic girls' till I was 16; a more relaxed state education for the final years) - things that will carry through to every facet of life, not just academics.
If I don't homeschool, I'll probably send my kids to a Steiner school.
This, "a kid's education seems to depend on the personality of the individual teacher," is under-appreciated in "education" programs. The terrible thing about all sorts of occupations, including teaching, is that it is an art and art can not be taught. You can take all of the classes, read all of the books, pass all of the tests, get all of the diplomas and degrees and still suck as a teacher, psychologist, doctor, musician, artist, computer programmer, welder, plumber, and all sorts of other occupations.
University "education" programs try to squash the personality from teaching styles, which drives out the artists and attracts the "practitioners," leaving public and private education filled with people who don't give a damn, don't have a lick of talent, couldn't inspire a monkey to climb trees, and bore students to death (sometimes literally). There is a great deal of literature establishing the fact that the more degrees a teacher has, the less talented and productive that teacher becomes. Yet our education system only rewards jobs and promotions based on degrees. It is an insane system born from overpopulation (most of the world's core problems are) and outsized establishments.
You said you learned to program in school-you made the best of it.
I felt like I learned more from a teacher/professor that did their profession and taught a class on it. They brought real world examples into the class and made it relevant.
"Besides teaching kids to hate learning, school also teaches mindless obedience and the importance of spending your life doing things you hate." - Sounds like something the supreme leader of the world would come up with to prevent the people from seeing that he has no clothes on.
Yes, this is why other Country’s is head the US, they start teaching trades at a young age, here in the US you must be in High school before that well happen, I BELIEVE schools in US kill the Creative Mind, because they say you can't do that Until you pass a type of class, in which is BS, what they should do is find out what the students them self's like or want to do, and build the Education around that, and always teach Math with Science so that the math is more useful, I still have a hard time with spelling & grammar that is right, and people still pick on me, they don't have a clue that I'm fighting dyslexia, and people believed that I never tried but they didn't know that I was always studying after school, and No the schools never even cared about it, I started school late in the year & left early because I help my family on the Harvest, each year, I did not have a choose about it, I had to make a living even at a young age, win my parents die win I was 4, my uncles & cousins razed me, and yes I did Graduate high school, but I learned that I learned more in College btw sophomore & jr year & on the job training then I did in all that schooling, I learned they didn't want to even teach me, so I learned everything on my own & still learning today. :)
I'm 65 and went to K-12 and two years of college in
the 50's and 60's and school was not "centered around learning" 50-60 years ago,
either. I taught college classes for the last 12 years and tried hard to make my
courses relevant to my students, but the huge range of "students" teachers are
expected to deal with forces a lot of material to be dumbed-down to
I think you almost touched on the real problem with
your experience. Where were the parents in this experience? Why are they not
defending their daughters' right to a valuable education? The stupid kids'
parents are all over teachers for making little Dummy think and for damaging his
fragile self-esteem with D's and F's. Smart kids' parents are rarely to be seen
or heard. We get the education we deserve, along with the government that
I live in India, where I am managing a school. There are so many ideas floating around in my head to improve learning and to improve the involvement of students in a constructive way, but the major problem is the dearth of good people to teach. In India specially, the recent graduates have knowledge of relatively poor quality and on top of that usually teachers are those, who don't find anything better to do! If more better people are attracted to school education somehow (the salaries nowadays are much better but that doesn't seem to be working), most of the problems you describe will be solved.
". . . usually teachers are those, who don't find anything better to do" is the case here, too. Education majors are consistently at the bottom of their graduating classes and teaching is considered a stepping stone to a real career. In the US, teachers are barely (maybe) above garbage collectors in social standing and below them in wages. Recent information about adjunct college instructors has exposed the vicious underbelly of higher education, too. It is not unusual for an adjunct college instructor to work 2-5 different schools and earn a poverty wage with no benefits, including SS contributions.
I hate butting in on posts, but this is an excellent comment. I completely agree! In Australia, a teaching degree is the easiest and cheapest postgraduate degree to get into. I used to work at a local university taking calls from prospective students, and the comment 'I want to do teaching because it looks easy' was one of the most common things I heard on the phones. It's only when they get hired that they realise 'hey - this is a big responsibility!' and quit.
We have such a high proportion of undergrad students doing teaching just to get a masters qualification... they do 2 compulsory years of teaching, and then quit to do something completely different. They end up not only bringing down the morale of their colleagues but also potentially ruining the education of the children they're teaching.
We need to raise the standards of teaching degrees - maybe even implement the interview system that so many therapy and medicine based degrees have - to ensure the right personalities with the right motivations are going into the system!
The only way to "raise the standards" is to increase wages, teacher autonomy, and dramatically improve educational administration to assist teachers rather than inhibit, penalize, control, and demoralize. I suspect Australia is no more ready to do any of that than the US. We'd rather reward TBTF financial speculators with tax breaks and corporate welfare for crashing our economy than pat a great teacher on the back and do anything necessary to keep that teacher in the classroom.
The way I perceive school is this: glorified babysitting for kids, while the parents grind out the corporate 9-5. It's sculpting kids to be corporate cogs once they become of age.
Instead of learning what excites a child, they are forced to learn whatever dribble the educational board deems necessary to pound into their heads. I used to loathe learning because of this, until I realized that it was not learning I disliked, but the rigid, creativity discouriging formal educational institution.
As far as I was concerned, she was perfect. She was at least as smart as I was, was a dancer and had the body to prove it, and had a smile that could disarm the national guard. Let's call her Julie.
So, like an earthworm stalking it's prey, I put my usual game on her. Since my last flowchart was so popular, I've made another one to show you how I dealt with the ladies back then:
Nedless to say, things went slowly. We hung out nearly every day for the last couple months of our Senior year summer vacation. Like many guys, I was totally oblivious to her attraction for me. One morning Julie came over really early while I was still sleeping, and squeezed into my twin bed with me. I woke up, and assumed that she must be tired - it didn't even occur to me that she might like me. Finally on the last week of that vacation she said to me,
So as you probably already guessed, I decided to go with Chinese first.
There really was no other reason than "I've been thinking about it for ages". When I think about it then I have to admit it's probably the least helpful language for me to learn at this point. Then again, who said learning should be driven by necessity?
Maybe it's different in other places but when I look around me then most of the time people don't learn just for the fun of it. Sure, they often have fun while learning but they only seem to start learning when something becomes useful. And I have to admit, I went through a period like that as well. Unfortunately though it also took away part of my enjoyment related to learning. Sure, whatever I learned was helpful and the process was fun but it was often at an inconvenient moment. Because of that the learning also created additional stress and I stopped enjoying it.
About a year ago I started learning things just for the heck of it again though and I'm now actually enjoying it again. Sure, being able to say:"I want to read a book now" in Chinese is probably not very helpful but then, who cares? It's not like I have to be able to have a conversation with somebody tomorrow. I can just slowly work my way through the material.