The Education Forum


Background

Here's where I'm starting from:

1 The entire educational system in this country stinks (pretty much).
2 The people who run the education business are money-grubbing, self serving morons (C'mon Tom, tell us what you really think).
3 The people who do the teaching are--for the most part--egomaniacs who don't have the faintest idea of what education should be all about.
4 Let's figure it out for ourselves and fix it.

The Question

Here's the question I've been asking people:

If you were going to "educate" a person, how would you define "educate?" I mean we do spend tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars--per person--on education. How should we be spending that money? I mean, what should be our goals? I don't mean HOW should we teach them (that's a separate question which I addressed in a small way with the New Theory of Learning). I mean WHAT should we teach them?

As I've thought about this, I've come to realize that there are (at least) two aspects to education. One major branch is "vocational training." At places like MIT, for example, they do vocational training--they train people to get jobs. Then, there is everything else. I'd like to explore the "Everything else." What should it be?

High schools seem to teach teen-agers how to take tests (a skill one hardly uses in real life unless one is a contestant on a TV quiz show.) Grammar schools prepare kids for high schools; elementary schools prepare them for grammar schools. So, the goal--if we can call it that--of schools is to prepare kids for more school. And then to help them score well on a test administered by some (by now, very rich) people in Princeton, New Jersey so they can get into the college of their--or their parents'--choice where they sometimes learn stuff that will help them to get a job. But mostly not. (The joke, "Do you want fries with that?" isn't a joke.)

The Educational Forum

So, here is The Education Forum. The people who visit this site are some of the smartest people on the planet (Seriously. But you knew that.) Let's figure this out.

If you're interested, you can read about some of my thoughts below.

But, maybe you already have thought about it yourself and you have reached some conclusions. Please tell us your thoughts. We'll post everything. We'll read everything. We'll figure it out. Then we'll write some very nasty letters to people like the president of Harvard University. Are you interested? Please write. This is important and the people in charge are not going to do it! They have too big a vested interested in the status quo.

Here are some of my thoughts:

I sat in my driveway a few weeks ago, lit up a cigar and scribbled the following notes on a pad of paper. (My early thoughts were quite simplistic; but I had to start somewhere).

An educated person...
 
...is one who knows about lots of things. (Boy, I thought. This is really stupid.)
...has perspective, gained from a knowledge of history. (A little better.)
...has an appreciation of art, music etc. (I decided that this was a "cultured" person. The same thing? I don't think so.)
...is always learning.
...understands the relative importance of things.
...understands himself.
...understands human nature.

Then I changed my approach and wrote:

An Education should prepare a person to...
 
...understand the world (includes government, politics, advertising, house construction, money).
...make good decisions.
...know how to find answers.
...understand the relationships of things.
...love.
...care.
...have empathy.
...not be selfish.
...see opportunities.
...communicate (includes other languages).

Then I made a list of subjects I thought should be included in one's education.

  • health care
  • poverty
  • prejudice
  • the cosmos
  • philosophy/religion
  • how things work (cars, houses, cities)
  • kids
  • growth/evolution--how things change
  • love
  • beauty
  • stupidity
  • old age
  • pain and pleasure
  • publications (there are so many)
  • what works and what doesn't (e.g., in health, in arguments, in advertising, in politics)

I ended up with these thoughts. The "everything else" part of education ought to first help us to understand the world we live in. As much of it as possible, including flora, fauna, cultures, governments, religions, things.

Then it ought to help us to cope with that world.

And in the process ought to help us become good kind empathetic people.

What are your thoughts? Send e-mail and speak up.

 

Read the Education Forum, Part II