It's interesting how we view every significant component of civilization as having burst on the scene sometime after the day we were born.
The task of education is hardly new. Home "schooling" preceded what we refer to as civilization and was honed over millenniums. There was plenty to teach. Calculus etc. has been around for millenniums. History was no less interesting and important than it is today. Individual resourcefulness flourished far more than it does today.
While all this doesn't mean new thinking isn't useful and needed, closing our eyes (as we do) to expertise badly needed today that was honed to perfection over millenniums is not only egotistical but self-defeating.
My children are in public schools, and only a few of their teachers I would label mediocre. None were "bad". I'm sure "bad" teachers exist but they are few.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of "bad" co-workers, leaders, bosses, etc... to deal with, so a "bad" teacher is just another learning opportunity for the pupil to experience. Teachers have a difficult job that is impossible to fulfill perfectly for every student. They do not deserve the bashing I see them getting in the media.
If you want your kids to be creative, free thinkers, you better be setting that example at home.
If you think a child can decide to give up learning by the 3rd grade, age 9, then you better be considering the example that kids parents were setting for the first 5 years of that child's life- before they ever hit school. It's not the teachers' fault, and it's not the schools' fault. The children are innocent, so the common demoninator is the PARENT.
While home schooling is a great idea, few people can actually do it well, and can afford this luxury. This is indeed a LUXURY few Americans can afford.
A functioning democracy requires education of ALL citizens. This is why we can not march into a country, like Iraq, and plop down democracy and expect it to work. If the indigenous population is illiterate, desperately poor, hungry and hopeless, they do not have the tools to behave in a democratic society, and there is no room for surprise if they turn back to a barbaric theocracy (for instance).
PUBLIC Education is a function of government and a National Security and Sovereignty issue. There is no room for profit motive in PUBLIC education. If you don't like the PUBLIC schools in your geography, either get involved to effect a change, or send your kids to private schools while still fulfilling your civic duty to pay your local taxes that support PUBLIC schools and further the advancment of general literacy and democracy in America.
rajat_asic is right. In India, and I'm sure in many other Asian countries, the education system actively discourages any innovative thinking. What happens in even the most prestigious institutions is pathetic. I am pursuing engineering, and I can tell you that in my class there are no more than five people who joined engineering because they liked it. Many joined engineering because it has become a sort of norm in this country to get an engineering degree, then an MBA, an then become a manager in an IT company. What is more sad is that those students who cram all the syllabus are at the top of the class, scoring 10/10, and are in high demand.
You don't get to see even a single quality research paper from Indian researchers, nor even a good book by Indian authors. Yes there are people who complete there undergraduate studies, and then do postgrad, doctorate, and post-doc from USA or Europe and I do not count them as "educated in India". And if you chance to meet some of them, they will tell you how bad the education system here is.
Mr Woznak is right. This what happens in schools and colleges in India. Students are taught to follow schedules and memorize rather than unleash their minds to be creative. Thats the reason India does not have Hi-tech product companies. We have excellent service model, just take orders and do the stuff or else sit dumb. Thats is what big corporates prefer too, hire engineers who can follow orders and not try to to be out of the crowd. Startups help here as they give a creative platform. But the majority of young engineers look for stability and join big corporates to be part of the herd.
Americans (partcularly OBAMA) should not take examples of Indian students as better students.. Indians are hard workers and taught to follow not lead, While Americans have been leaders in technology, they have created job for millions of Indians.. I just wish India comes up with good technology policies to encourage creativity, but that means we need to change the model of our scools and colleges. But Indian bureaucracy is not bothered..
A breakthrough technology is necessary now.. Nanotechnology can give creative engineers a path to think.. but only when the students joining these courses have the aptitude to think creatively it will make sense.
Frank, you're right about this being a bigger problem than just public education expenditures.
The problem is that the attacks on public education are part of a larger attack on the public as a whole, especially the working class. The income and wealth disparity in U.S. society have been growing dramatically and this has been going on for decades. Poverty is increasing. It's hard to be a parent when you're are working three jobs seven days a week or have no job at all.
All should read the article linked by Brad above to see this connection.
Most of the issues touched on by Woz and the comments here do not require big expenditures, just changes in educational policy.
A child's first and best teachers have always been mom & dad, but unfortunately for many kids, parenting skill and parental involvement do not always follow naturally from the act of procreation. You cannot fix bad or absent parenting by throwing more money at the problem.
A good article on Bill Gates and education is http://dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=3781 . "The cost of K–12 public schooling in the United States comes to well over $500 billion per year. So, how much influence could anyone in the private sector exert by controlling just a few billion dollars of that immense sum? Decisive influence, it turns out. A few billion dollars in private foundation money, strategically invested every year for a decade, has sufficed to define the national debate on education; sustain a crusade for a set of mostly ill-conceived reforms; and determine public policy at the local, state, and national levels. In the domain of venture philanthropy—where donors decide what social transformation they want to engineer and then design and fund projects to implement their vision—investing in education yields great bang for the buck."
Bob, A major part of education 'reform' is being put forward by private think tanks. One is headed by Bill Gates. They are sponsoring legislation and heavily investing in politicians favoring their approach.
The economy, including industrial and service sectors, are being driven in a direction of increasing disparity between the elite and the common worker. As far as the common worker is concerned industry is pushing for a low common denominator where simple math and communications skills will suffice. A good example is the way airline pilots are treated these days, including quite low pay and very long hours. This is not designed to necessarily attract a well rounded, educated person.
Quality education is expensive and ultimately these costs are reflected negatively in the profitability of corporations competing internationally.
Les, I am willing to buy almost all of what you have to say with just a few grains of salt... maybe only one or two. Except, your last statement drags "corporate America" into the blame. Why would this be? Doesn't corporate America require a supply of workers, at all levels from floor sweepers to engineering and management, who can count beyond their fingers and toes? What's in it for corporations to allow public schools to go down the drain?
Public education is under attack. Yes, the schools are failing but more often than not the administrators are doing all in their power to make them fail. The administrators are less and less educators and more and more business flunkies whose reputations have been built on drastic cost cutting and attacks on workers and or the public.
In Chicago, under Mayor Daley, we had Ron Huberman as CEO of the public school system for about two years. Mr. Huberman started in Chicago as a cop and ended up Assistant Deputy Superintendant in a department known for frame-ups, torture, killings and cover ups. He later was made President of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) where under his tenure there were drastic cuts in service, especially in poorer non-white communities, fare hikes and preparations for massive layoffs.
We are now faced with an incoming administrator where the vast majority of teachers where he last headed voted no confidence in him.
Testing is a big issue. Much of this testing is neither a good measure of student or teacher performance and often is an incentive to teach to the tests at a detriment to overall education. In many cases the amount of time required for the testing significantly reduces the time remaining for the actual teaching.
The actual performance of students has much to do with the environment they live in where often it is schools in poor communities that have the lowest performance scores. This is not helped by the increasing large class sizes teachers and students have to contend with.
These attacks are being orchestrated by government, from President Obama all the way down to just about every jurisdiction in most states and cities. It’s a political question. Corporate America is a major part of and the thrust behind these attacks.