Pass or Fail: Rethinking School Design for Better Learning
In this multi-part series, I provide a dissection of the phenomenon of retention and social promotion. Also, I describe the many different methods that would improve student instruction in classrooms and eliminate the need for retention and social promotion if combined effectively.
While reading this series, periodically ask yourself this question: Why are educators, parents and the American public complicit in a practice that does demonstrable harm to children and the competitive future of the country?
If altering elements of the U.S. education system could make students less anxious and more inspired by the process of learning, would it be worth it?
The redesign of America’s schools, would involve many levels of change and would certainly take time. Nonetheless, there is immense potential and opportunity to learn about the aspects of the American education system that have been successful in the past and those elements that continue to be successful today. There is also the opportunity to learn from alternative education and assessment models, such as those found in other countries, like Europe. The multiage classroom approach has a great deal to offer the American public as a learning environment that reduces many negative elements of our current system.
The ultimate goal of a redesigned system is the revival of learning as a passion within this nation. One of the qualities that the Founding Fathers cherished was curiosity and a love for intellectual development and study. The talent that existed among those who founded this nation is something that should, even today, help rekindle the nation’s passion to learn, innovate, and create. This ideal is becoming ever more crucial because of the importance of knowledge in our global economy.
Inspiring students to be creative, analytical, and resourceful in their thinking will likely have many additional effects. The cost of retention and social promotion policies includes high unemployment rates and reliance upon public benefits, high-school dropout rates that are disproportionately high, and many social and emotional issues that manifest as problems of poor self-esteem. Creating a passion and true capacity for learning would help to teach America’s students to work for themselves, boosting self-esteem.
A New Approach
It is a feature of our time that new ideas and new technologies are making old systems redundant. This can either be a depressing reality for the American worker, or an inspiring and challenging one. It seems reasonable to assume that the quality of one’s education might well tip the balance of perception. An individual who has enjoyed a high-quality, high-level education that teaches critical thinking and a true appreciation of knowledge in its various forms, will be able to apply innovation and creative thinking to new situations. This is the type of American who overcomes challenges, instead of being left out in the cold by change.
Inspiring Future Innovators
An interesting reflection of this notion is found in a report on the knowledge economy itself. In their assessment, Powell and Snellman suggest that the modern car is becoming less of a nuts-and-bolts machine and more of a smart machine that applies computer technology to offer better safety, economy, environmental friendliness, performance and even better entertainment. On the one hand, technology that supported the initial development of the car – the innovations of Henry Ford and the like – are now almost entirely obsolete. But on the plus side, innovations are happening all the time, and what was once a relatively limited piece of technology is now a sophisticated product with multiple functions.
The innovators of the future will be those who can take existing products and transform them to achieve new results, to perform different or enhance functionality. Ultimately, the American education system should be focused on making such innovations possible for American minds. Within the education system itself, we should be striving to do more with the resources that are available to us, supporting greater efficiency, greater results, and a higher purpose.
Could the next Henry Ford be so stifled and unmotivated in our current education system, that we as American’s miss out on the next big innovation?