The public education system was created to provide trained workers for business. That is why we took typing, bookkeeping, drafting, welding, auto-mechanics and woodworking in high school. Our 1950s education system needs a complete overhaul that recognizes how early and how fast the human mind can learn and for fostering creativity and curiosity. Memorizing dates and facts is useless. It is better to understand the why and how than the what and when.
I define knowledge as more than just knowing stuff and intelligence as knowing how to use knowledge. Young minds are like sponges that can quickly absorb knowledge and understand complex subjects. The mind’s capability for learning never goes up and is always decreasing with age. I define education as an ongoing process with no start or end. You never graduate, you just get too old.
To attract more businesses like Schweitzer Engineering, we will need more creative workers in manufacturing and engineering, who can work with complex systems, perform logical analysis, solve challenging problems, and communicate clearly and accurately.
Idaho is the ideal laboratory for testing a new approach to education because there is no deeply entrenched educational bureaucracy or teachers’ unions to resist changing a broken system. Other states can sit, watch, and see what happens when we zoom past them into the future. Just because Idaho doesn’t spend as much on education doesn’t mean we are stupid. My plan could cost even less with far greater returns and other states will be poaching our workers.
My plan for education reform has been optimized for the endlessly continuing pandemic era. My plan is also designed to make school fun for the students by allowing them to choose and take responsibility for their own path.
If you believe that children should be raised by an “institution”, with preschool and daycare, all-day and all-year school, to be good compliant citizens for the establishment, then read no further. I am not saying that good preschool and daycare programs don’t exist, but most are just sheep herders, and we shouldn’t have an economy that requires both parents to work full time to make ends meet.
My children learned to read by watching Sesame Street on TV. Now there are numerous early education applications available. For the pandemic era, we will need virtual preschool play date applications so that a child’s social behaviors can be developed and supervised. This can include interactive card games, board games, computer games and a variety of creative group activities. Children would even be able to play with those in other cities, states, or even other countries.
This plan is based on choice. It is a hybrid of public, private and home-school options. Private schools can compete with public schools for students, public funding and student competitions. Any school board is free to choose the style of public education they want to provide. They can stay with the old, try something new or mix the two together. Old school systems will be able to compete with new school systems in sports and all other team competitions. Home-schooled students can also join school clubs, workshops, sports, science labs and any other student group activities and student services.
For each elementary, middle, and high school, the school board will choose which online lecture series they want to offer their students and assign a teacher as a virtual classroom discussion moderator for each course. All lectures will be college level and be presented by the best lecturers in each subject. Students will be able to watch the lectures at their own speed. Normal classroom lectures bore the fast students and leave the slow students in a cloud. The classroom social environment is too distracting for the students to actually learn anything anyway.
Virtual classrooms will be divided into classes of no more than 30 students for each group discussion session and may include students from multiple schools with the same students in each class and the same teacher moderating each session. That teacher could even moderate elementary, middle, and high school class discussion sessions for the same course at different times. For example, one teacher could handle all the various history courses for all the virtual class sessions at all the school levels.
The school board will also choose which group activity clubs they want to offer to students and assign a teacher as a mentor and coach for each club for each school.
The clubs will compete with other schools in regional and state competitions and be awarded grade points for each club member if the club does well in the competitions. Clubs would include various sports teams, various entertainment groups, various technology clubs such as robotics, and hands-on educational facilities for science labs like physics, chemistry, and biology and skills like auto-mechanics, welding, and woodworking. A woodworking club could have individual projects and then select the best resulting project for regional and state competitions. In this case, only the winning individual gets the grade points.
The student needs to understand that grade points do not represent anything other than the student's ability to earn grade points. It has no more value than the high score on a computer game. Students who want bragging rights can compete with each other for highest grade points.
In this system, teachers will need to be good at drawing knowledge out of their students rather than pushing knowledge into their students. The requires a special kind of teacher that understands educational psychology, how to foster curiosity, and encourage communication. Multiple choice and true/false questions will not be permitted on any exam that issues official grade points. The students must prove they know the subject, not that they can guess the answer.
Before each quarter, the students will sign up for the lecture classes and clubs that interest them. They also can choose independent study and sign up for no classes and/or no clubs.
The basic daily schedule is virtual group discussion periods (30 minutes each), scheduled between 8 AM and 11 AM on specific days, covering the online lecture material that the student should have viewed prior to the group session. There are no grade points for issued viewing the lecture or attending the discussion sessions. Grade points are only issued during the discussion for good and very good questions, comments, or answers by a student. Mid-term and final exam results will determine most of their point score for the class.
At any point during or even after a course is completed, the student can cancel a class or club if they loose interest, can't keep up or aren't doing well. "Any path is only a path and there is no affront to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do."
From 11 AM to noon, students with any onsite activities, on that day, are transported to school in time for a lunch/social hour from noon to 1 PM. From 1 PM to 4PM, various club activities are scheduled on selected days of the week. Students can also spend any free time in the gym, computer lab or library when there is a gap in their schedule. These facilities should also open at 8 AM for students that can't remain at home in the morning.
Each student will have a “curriculum vitae” which will be their permanent record of their training and experience from birth to death. This file is created and started by the parent or guardian and can only be updated by the student and or an accredited educational entity which was authorized by the student to update the file with official course or training results.
The student can make entries for their own educational or career achievements or just to log and timestamp creative ideas. Only the student can view the file without prior authorization from the student. For example, the student could make a synopsis or the entire file temporarily viewable by a business for an employment application.
A student will be able to take an exam, for a fee, from an accredited educational entity to demonstrate proficiency in a self-taught subject and receive grade points on their permanent record for that subject. You get the same points for teaching yourself and passing the test as someone taking the course and passing the test with the same score as you. Your grade points are shown for each subject as a raw score and your rank as a percentage of those taking the same test along with a total raw score and an average rank for all your graded courses and graded self-taught subjects.
There are no grade levels, just age levels. You start in first grade, and you graduate when you feel you’ve had enough and are ready to go to work, trade school, college, or just have fun.
After zero to 3 years of preschool learning to read, write and count, students can take a test to enter first grade and learn navigating mobile and desktop operating systems, launching apps, and understanding file types. By the end of second grade they should be running apps for researching topics, writing reports, creating digital media and understand arithmetic in other than base 10, such as base 2 and base 16.
In 1st thru 6th grades, the student can do self-directed research in various interests, such as art, music, sports, foreign languages, biology, chemistry, physics, robotics and computers. Young minds seem to be able to absorb this kind of knowledge effortlessly. They also can understand that computer programming does not actually require being a math genius and anyone can do it with simple knowledge of logic and arithmetic.
Social sciences and history should wait until 7th thru 10th grades when the student has a deeper understanding of the world around them. In 11th and 12th grade, students should get marketable career training or preparation to go to college for a “real” professional degree. College course lectures should be presented by the best teachers in their field and be available free-of-charge online to anyone. Degreed professionals in physical and mental healthcare, science, engineering, business management and law will be in high demand.
Eliminate student loan debt so that young people can afford to raise a family. All existing student loans are, in fact, predatory and will be declared subject to bankruptcy. The lender never considered student’s ability to complete the degree and his likelihood of getting a good job using that degree. Future student loans will require due diligence on the part of the lender and will also be subject to bankruptcy. If a degree is required for your employment, its cost will be repaid by your employer in prepaid annual installments over the first 5 years of employment, in addition to your full salary.