Interesting column by Andy Kessler in the WSJ on 6/1/20.
I will just riff on the same subject.
Covid 19 has been what I call an unethical experiment. By that I mean that you would never shut down the nation to see what would happen. But for various reasons, the experiment has been launched and is ongoing.
Need structural change in education
One of the structural changes that may result is extreme change in the eduction establishment from Head Start to K-12 to college. Extreme change that will make education more cost effective and that will greatly reduce the pay, benefits, and job security.
My readers may not know it but I am an expert on expertise itself and an expert on imparting expertise. I am not the only one, but I am one.
I have written 38 how-to books and thousands of how-to articles and made probably over a hundred how-to speeches. I attended kindergarten, 1 through 5th grade at a Catholic school, 6th through 12th grade at two different public schools in two different states, college at a public institution—The United States Military Academy, and grad school at a private university, the MBA program at Harvard Business School.
My final high School, Collingswood in that NJ town, was reportedly the best public high school in the Philadelphia area by virtue of being the only one that would hire experienced teachers. All others hired only new college grads because they were cheaper.
I also attended Army schools after West Point: Ranger, communications officer, paratrooper, Radio Systems Officer, Satellite Communications Officer. After the Army, I attended dozens of seminars on real estate investment, football coaching. public speaking, sales, baseball coaching, football coaching, soccer coaching. I have read around 4,000 books on how-to subjects (my wife cataloged them using Intelliscan). In general, I have not only been taught all this stuff in various “class” settings, I have also then put the training to the test in war, in business, in entrepreneurship, on athletic fields, in romance, in raising three sons.
Don’t educate the uneducable
It takes two to educate and train: both the student and the teacher. My attitude is that I do not waste my time trying to educate the uneducable or to coach the uncoachable. That really is obvious to anyone with experience teaching or leading.
Motivating those who must be motivated
However, it is a bit of a luxury in some contexts. I was a platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC, the home of that division, and in Vietnam during a war there. I was a company commander at the US Army Signal Corps School. Maybe a third of my troops were draftees. I was also a father of three sons, an employer, a landlord. And I coached your sports where the “athletes” were often participating in part because of their parents’ wishes, not just their own. In some of those roles, I was not only a teacher but also a disciplinarian. I have also coached coaches through my books making me indirectly coach of their players.
My policy of not educating the uneducable or not coaching the uncoachable could not apply to military draftees or my sons or tenants or employees or players. I had to not only teach them the way to do things, I also had to motivate them to do the things they needed to do regardless of how unmotivated they may have been upon arrival to my control.
Education best practices
Educating is fun and rewarding and important. It is a skill. There are best practices. Technology is a great help.
The education establishment
Then there is the education establishment. Our kindergartens and grades 1-12 were created and designed by Prussia in the late 1800s and promulgated to Americans by Horace Mann. He is called the Father of American Education. More like the stenographer of the Fathers of Prussian Education: King Frederick the Great and Johann Julius Hecker.
It goes without providing detailed proof that however great an improvement the Prussian education system was over its predecessor, it is obsolete in 2020 in America.
Big picture observations:
Here are some big picture observations:
• Head Start was studied by the US government itself and found to be ineffective and forgotten after about one year.
• Kids need to learn how to read and write and math up to a certain point.
• Adults need to be healthy, informed citizens and voters. That requires instruction in health and on the history of the US and how its government works.
• As a full-time, successful writer, I think “English” as taught in schools is a near total waste of time. Yet it is typically required all years of K-12 and many courses in college and even grad school. There are no courses on how to talk. Reading and writing are merely talking and listening to talk using the alphabet instead of the mouth and the ear. The material for students to read should be whatever is most popular, not the nutty list of such “classics” as Chaucer’s Canterbury tales, Shakespeare, and the Odyssey and the Iliad. That stuff is written in a foreign language and is about a foreign civilization. The way to get kids to read is to give them things kids their age want to read. Diagramming sentences, learning rules of grammar, learning how to see or imagine symbolism and other fodder of English teachers is a total waste.
• High school graduates need to have a personal finance course before they graduate.
• High school students must learn probability and statistics. They do NOT need trigonometry or calculus unless it is a prerequisite for a college major they seek.
• Public K-12 has been taken over by and, in poorer, less educated communities destroyed by the public school teachers unions.
• Colleges have, in their competition for students and to rank high in magazine rankings, totally abandoned the grown-up role of requiring the students to study what they need to study. All of the majors that end in the word “studies” are nothing but polemics collections—wastes of time and money. All financial aid should be tied to and limited by the first-year after college average earnings of those who choose that major. If you want to study bullshit or a subject for which there is no market, you get no financial aid or tiny financial aid from the taxpayers. College has become a sort of five- or six-year Club Med for late teens and early twenties persons.
• Real education is paid for out of the pocket of the student attending. It may be is a classroom setting with a human teacher and multiple student, but self teaching at your own pace is probably better unless you are devoid of self-discipline. There is no fraternity or sorority in education, no athletic teams, no dorms, no health club. All of those things are nice. I have availed myself of all of them, but I have also educated myself for 69 years. I got educated from books, classrooms, videos, practice. My dorms, college intramural and intercollegiate teams, and extracurricular activities were nice, but not education per se. There were tangential. Marginal. But they have become central to attracting college students. That is wrong.
• Tenure at public schools or college and universities is an outrage. Real teachers get paid for teaching and should get fired if their students flunk a test on the subject in question.
• The Dale Carnegie public speaking course was one of my best educational experiences. Warren Buffett said it was the BEST educational experience he had. It is a finely tuned course that gradually teaches you in 13 evening sessions how to make a great speech. My wife and youngest son also took it.
• I have worked with contemporary computer and Internet courses like Khan Academy. I like them very much. They teach, then test to see if you got it. If not, they teach some more and test again. You progress at your own speed. They are infinitely cheaper to deliver than traditional classroom instruction.
• Before 1877, if you wanted to hear a song sung or a speech made, you had to go in-person to hear a local singer or speaker do it. In 1877, Edison invented the gramophone. Ever since, when you hear a song or great speech, you are generally listening to the best person on earth doing it on a recording. So why are we still listening to or watching some local person talking about calculus or American history or some other subject. The world’s best calculus teacher should be teaching everyone, not some local person who got hired by a local school.
• When you teach or coach multiple people, you need to use all sorts of methods. For some students, method A makes the light bulb go on. For others, method B, and so on.
• One thing in-person teachers can do is adjust to the individual student and answer questions. So they should supplement the world’s best teacher in person locally.
• Education should be results oriented. I think high school and college should be replaced by AP type tests. You take the test. If you passed, you get credit for knowing that information—like the Bar exam or continuing education tests for various professionals. It matters not whether you learned the material in your bedroom in your mom’s house or in an adult school at night or in a classroom at a prestigious, world famous university. Indeed, if I got a 5 on the test after studying in my room and you got for a 4 on the same test after studying at MIT, I am better at that subject than you. Your school is irrelevant.
• The cost of traditional colleges and universities is an outrage. So are the debts of recent grads. End that format.
The Prussian model should be trashed. Learning should be done however works best for you. Proving that you learned it should be done by AP type tests that require no traditional prerequisites for taking.