I want to talk about education, so important in a free society in which everyone is allowed to speak her/his mind. If people are going to speak, it is more tolerable if they have something intelligent to say. Just kidding! Free speech is free, not only for educated snobs. But democracy is hard, if you participate. You have to understand the documents that form the basis of your country’s government, you need to have skills to read about candidates and recognize the techniques people in politics and the media use to hide flaws and to perhaps, dare I say, mislead voters. If people in a democracy don’t participate, they could easily lose their freedoms.
Societies need educated people to keep their economic edge in the competitive world of capitalism. Right now science and math skills rule in the world of work and therefore, in giving a country that economic advantage that it needs to be near or at the top of the heap, and to offer its citizens the best of available lifestyles.
Yet, in America, our children feel a disconnect from schooling. They may start out well, but they are not finishing well. Our dropout rate is embarrassing, the disenchantment rate, even worse. After puberty our kids start to either hate school or excel in school. What can we do to win back older children to the value of schooling? Some of the kids who walk away fell behind before puberty but learned to push help away by using humor or misbehavior or both so no one could break through their shell to turn their school experience around.
I love public school. Education must be available for every citizen and resident of a free nation. But when our public schools are not able to educate such a large percentage of children, we must look at new models. Our school model is quite old and still works for many. For our failures we need some educators with vision to brainstorm new models.
Perhaps, since we have such a competitive society, we need a more competitive educational system with “level” tests that sort students into different programs of study, something like England does. Or perhaps we need to pull out the children who put up all the defenses and put them in schools where they get more individualized attention. Perhaps we need schools that are more interactive, where students do not sit all day at desk, but work in a more seminar and laboratory type set-up. Whatever we come up with, we need to improve the quantity of young people graduating and the quality of what they have learned. It is also possible that we will not be able to produce an entire nation of “geeks,” or maybe we can!