Practicality vs. Requirements: What Should We Teach Our Kids
By Al Berrios (contact Al Berrios)

(Editorial Note: This Report was modified in Feb. 19, 2004 into this easier print format.)

Allow your kids to drop out, get jobs, marry young, have kids, and basically whatever else they want to do, because to leave them in public school is a gross dereliction of your parental duties. Public schools, whether you realize it or not, is the single greatest disaster to ever affect our children today. Dated curricula, unionized educators, and budget cronyism is creating the greatest generational spread in have and have-nots in decades. The following are al berrios & co.'s analyses and recommendations to academia on improving their results:

First, think about the reaction of students towards subjects and policies being taught in our schools. Why have none ever wanted to learn? The flaw with the way subjects are taught has always been that they don't address the various ways people learn nor teach the value in what is being taught. Just because a student can't add, doesn't mean that student is dumb. It just means that student does not learn the way an educator teachs, or perhaps, that student's brain doesn't accept math, but soaks up concepts, such as art and music. Yes, it's easier to simply have a standardized way of teaching, but we're not making cars on an assembly line, we're making tomorrow's leaders. In addition, present to students the end result of education. Let them evaluate for themselves what they can become, not allow them to think of school just to get good grades. Start career development in kindergarten. Make students aware of the millions of career opportunities early, before mass media teaches them that the only way to make money is sports and singing.

Second, policies that force students to be nice to each other and encourage educators to motivate poor performing students should stop. If students are congratulated for effort, what's the point of completion? The psychological reward is the self-worth, and by taking that away, poor students actually perform poorer. Being nice all the time is a policy to prevent mentally abusive insults in the classroom. Although it's been discovered that these sort of insults scar adults for life, how prepared are we making our children for the difficulties of real life? By removing all obstacles in their interactions with others, students will become useless drones, doing only what they're told, without any original thoughts, and never being able to successfully interact with others around them. (No there's no scientific proof that this is the outcome of policies such as these, however, there's no scientific proof that these aren't the outcomes, and yet, these policies were implemented anyway. In fact, as we reviewed in our analysis of the toy industry, even though there's no evidence to support that babies develop into better adults from using educational toys, it continues to be a growing field.)

Third, getting consistent service has always been an unattainable goal of service providers. However, rather than teaching anyone to teach a certain way, future educators should be taught how students think, how parents think, and how to teach and gauge learning from linear logic and abstract concepts in a variety of ways so that students learn, not memorize. Grammar school educators typically follow government mandated curricula, textbook guides, and some sort of pattern in learning. However, the government should stick to politics, not regulate how we learn; textbook guides should be banned because they create laziness among educators; and if students are going to be taught based on a pattern of learning, they should always be presented with the larger overview of how and why they must learn things in a certain pattern. (Scientists have actually proven that Westerners typically have a narrower view of the world around them than Far East students. This is not a coincidence and hinders many important decision making abilities when we're adults.) I am not suggesting customizing education for each student, however, I am suggesting training our educators to quickly be able to adjust how they present the most optimal knowledge, not simply present it because they're supposed to. Behavior is part of the curriculum for any educator, however, how much time is spent on understanding parents and their influence on students? Educators need to stop thinking of themselves as babysitters, and learn to accept their roles as family counselors. This may be exponentially more difficult in metropolises, however, an unavoidable role, especially since educators spend so much time with students.

Fourth, education as a profession must be perceived to be as critical in society as law and medicine. Think about this: we trust our lives to licensed doctors, and yet we trust our childrens' future lives to uncertified undergrads. In a consumer survey outlined in a previous REPORT, education is perceived to be one of the most prestigious jobs, with sales as one of the least prestigious jobs. So, if consumers already think of educators as having great prestige, then why aren't we putting out teachers at the same rate we're putting out doctors and lawyers? Poor compensation, which has caused more educators to unionize than other professional service providers and unfortunately hindering an individual educator's earning potential. The solution seems obvious: allocate more public money to education, so more qualified people take these jobs. The obstacles are more insidious - unions, who dictate everything from curricula to classroom policies. And to antagonize the entire situation, lawmakers are allowing vouchers for parents that want to send their kids to private schools with non-union teachers. So rather than putting our money to work in fixing the current system, lawmakers are spreading it out, consequently harming the rest of the public school system even more.

Fifth, revamp the entire way grades are gathered and used. Yes, we need a standard on which to gauge individual performance, however, that standard does not account for the most crucial result of schooling - what a student learned. Instead, it gauges what a school taught. The unfortunate consequence of this system is that grades are also used to hold school districts accountable for their performance under Bush's "NCLB" laws, which, as we've reviewed in a previous REPORT, harms the student. I am also suggesting a redefinition of what poor performance is. It's important that a student understands that they're going through what they're going through to learn how to think, not get a grade. They should realize that ultimately, there are no right or wrong answers, but the point of doing homework is to practice how to think, the same way an athlete has to practice in order to become good.

Sixth, enforcement. Enforcement of recommendations like these should start at the principal/dean level, who should have to deal with less paperwork and be non-unionized so they can spend less time worrying about their pensions and more time evaluating their staff. Principals and deans should be able to determine their results in real-time, with superior technology paid for with public funds. Principals and deans should be able to dictate how they're gauged, based on their own familiarity with their students and staff. And principals and deans should concentrate their efforts on bringing parental and student sentiments in line with their individual vision of how their school should be run, not avoiding confrontation and engaging in power struggles. Sounds familiar? It should, this one's right out of a corporate playbook, and corporattions exist to win, not stay in limbo, like schools.

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