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Time To Rethink the School Desk?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the time-to-rethink-school-generally dept.

Education 405

theodp writes "As part of its reimagine the 21st-century classroom project, Slate asks: Is the best way to fix the American classroom to improve the furniture? While adults park their butts in $700 Aeron chairs, kids still sprawl and slump and fidget and dangle their way through the day in school furniture designed to meet or beat a $40 price point. 'We've seen in adults that if you put them in the right chair, their performance increases,' says Harvard's Jack Dennerlein. 'Is the same true for children? I can't see why not.' For school districts with deep pockets, there are choices — a tricked-out Node chair from IDEO and Steelcase can be had for $599."

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Hmmm (4, Insightful)

Master Moose (1243274) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055138)

Me thinks that someone wants to sell furniture.

Luxury! (3, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055274)

You had furniture in your school? We had to make do with moldy cardboard boxes for desks and sharp piles of rusting scrap metal for chairs, and we had to collect the scrap metal ourselves from train yards and storm drains. But try telling that to kids these days, they won't believe you!

Re:Luxury! (3, Insightful)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055476)

Moldy cardboard? Wow, you were pampered! We had to use each other as furniture, even though we weren't allowed to eat on weekdays and had to walk naked through five feet of snow for three miles, uphill in both directions. And we used each other as paper too... scratching our notes onto each others' backs with out dirty, cracked fingernails.

Re:Luxury! (3, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055484)

You had furniture in your school? We had to make do with moldy cardboard boxes for desks and sharp piles of rusting scrap metal for chairs, and we had to collect the scrap metal ourselves from train yards and storm drains.

We had to use cleverly arranged FedEx boxes [] Sure, we sold out, but we all got free mouse pads!

Re:Hmmm (5, Insightful)

Romancer (19668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055444)

This is BS, get the metalshop and woodshop to build and maintain the desks. They'll learn to build things to survive the worst and if they have to sit in them anyway they'll make them comfortable too. The higher schools can build for the lower where they don't have the facilities and give it to them at cost since they're learning, kinda like the hair stylist and cooking schools.

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055688)

This is a really good idea.

Re:Hmmm (1)

goltzc (1284524) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055900)

I have to say this really is a good idea, and me without mod points.

Re:Hmmm (1)

Ramirozz (758009) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055508)

Agree... even with nice chairs it will be depressing.

Re:Hmmm (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055968)

Me thinks that someone is trying to convince schools that these are not just the same old desks with wheels on the bottom.

If you've spent any time in a schoolroom in the last 15 years, you're familiar with the high pitched whine of metal scraping against linoleum, as students rearrange their chairs and desks to whatever activity is going on. It seems like a minor annoyance, but it's a serious design problem: School furniture was largely designed 50 years ago for static, face-forward teaching. It isn't suited to the myriad forms of teaching that take place in the modern classroom.

OH GOD, THE HIGH PITCHED WHINE that echos forever preventing any learning from happening! If only that antiquated furniture was designed for the myriad of desk configurations needed in today's fast-paced modern classroom.

In my day when we had to move desks around, we just slid them. On the snow, uphill at all times. There was at most a minute of squeeking and then the desk distraction was largely dispensed with.

Swivel chairs, on the other hand, seem like some of the ADHD students would be spinning around every few minutes, pushing back and forth, etc. Chair races seem like they'd be a lot more interesting than learning anything in school. And I would know, since I'm in a swivel chair with wheels right now, and the only reason I'm not spinning around and doing "chair jousting" is because I'm busy procrastinating on slashdot.

Return on Investment (5, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055152)

> if you put them in the right chair, their performance increases

As far as ROI goes, I think a better investment might be teachers, books, and paper.

Just sayin'

Re:Return on Investment (2, Funny)

Meshach (578918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055206)

Who knows how all us over twenties survived and still managed to get jobs, mortgages, cars, and RSPs sitting in those primitive uncomfortable chairs?

Re:Return on Investment (1)

Altus (1034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055442)

We managed to do it all that with the same teachers and books and paper that the grandparent was talking about though.

Since we all, presumably, made it through school and got jobs why should we ever have to change anything about the way we teach kids?

Re:Return on Investment (2, Funny)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055764)

because we don't want our kids living in our basement until 30? this is slashdot after all....

Re:Return on Investment (1)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055840)

Since we all, presumably, made it through school and got jobs why should we ever have to change anything about the way we teach kids?

Other countries improve their methods, and their children perform better in adulthood, but we stagnate, they outperform us, we become marginalized, and eventually we fade away. Ancient Egypt was once the mightiest and most advanced empire in the world, but now it's an underdeveloped (3rd world?) country.

Re:Return on Investment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055938)

Since we all, presumably, made it through school and got jobs why should we ever have to change anything about the way we teach kids?

You were being facetious, but this is far more true than you realize. One of the reasons children have so much trouble learning isn't because the schools aren't doing enough, it's that they are doing too much. What is required for learning hasn't changed. What has changed is our attitude toward education, sparking a need for a change in teaching.

Just a few years ago, teachers had much more control in their own classrooms. There were less mandates from higher ups and more freedom for teachers to actually teach. In addition, the prevailing mindset was: It is "the teachers job to teach" and "the students job to learn". Today, the mindset is that it is "the teacher's job to teach in the manner prescribed by a committee" and "the student's job to be entertained, engaged, and contrived to absorb knowledge some magical manner of the ideally enlightened".

Teaching isn't easy, learning isn't always fun, and the principles of teaching-- understanding and communication between teacher and student-- will never change. If you want to see better performance in the classroom we need to encourage the "old way" of thinking, and get parents and children to respect teachers instead of deride them.

Re:Return on Investment (1)

The Hatchet (1766306) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055662)

... "lets never improve anything because some of us managed to make due in totally different conditions almost a century ago" ... yea... good for you managing to get somewhere in a world where skills weren't generally required for jobs, and it was possible to get a job without a high school or college education. Cause, you know, nothing has changed in the past century. It is not about making due, it is about improving systems to make them better. You know, improving things.

Re:Return on Investment (1)

EraserMouseMan (847479) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055798)

You go ahead and do all the improving you want to do. Just on your own dime please.

Re:Return on Investment (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055920)

Indeed, but I'd wager the focus ought to be on what makes a difference rather than things which are more superficial in nature. For the most part, those desks were fine when I was in school. I don't recall them being a problem for most other students either. You got up out of them at least once an hour for a few minutes between classes. Perhaps they do need to be retooled for larger students, but for the most part the basica design was fine.

Spending the money elsewhere like on better curricula and more interesting classes would almost certainly go much further towards eliminating the problems cited in TFS.

Re:Return on Investment (2, Insightful)

EraserMouseMan (847479) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055778)

Yea, I don't really remember caring one bit about how uncomfortable the desks were when I was in school. We don't need to be finding ways to spend more school money right now.

Re:Return on Investment (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055926)

I thought the chairs in my school were quite comfortable.

They were made of plastic, but molded to fit the curve of the body. And remember that kids have more body fat than adults, so a hard surface doesn't really bother them. And finally you can't give office furniture to a student because he'll just take his pen and scrawl on it. That's no big deal when it's a disposable $40 chair, but could get rather expensive for a $700 chair.

Re:Return on Investment (1, Troll)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055260)

You can't invest money in good teachers, though. The union contract demands that everyone get paid the same (based on seniority). And you can't fire any of the lousy teachers. Even if you have teachers who read the newspaper all day long while the kids shoot craps, and get it all on video tape..... they'll sue and you'll have to re-hire them with back pay. Ah, public schools. :)

(And I was hating on the teachers' unions before Waiting for Superman, so :b in advance)

Re:Return on Investment (0, Troll)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055350)

It's worse than that. Teacher pay is already enough that those who are skilled enough to do the job, mostly don't want to because they can get a better job, with better hours and better working conditions. So many of the "lousy teachers" you mention are in the system merely because they're the dregs that were left over when the pool of prospectives for the career was picked clean. Meanwhile, in order to get warm bodies into public schooling, the standards for certification just get lower and lower. I've seen "student teacher" projects presented at a local school that would have earned an F... in the third grade back when I was in school.

Re:Return on Investment (5, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055306)

Changing the start time has also been shown to increase scores dramatically. Best of all. It's "FREE". Instead of 7/8 - 3. Do 10-5.

Don't most studies show kids get into the most amount of trouble (sex, drugs, rock and roll) after school before parents are home?

Start them at 10. They'll sleep until class starts. Wake up, be awake in class and be home when their parents get home.

Re:Return on Investment (4, Insightful)

edmicman (830206) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055572)

Can we do that for corporate America, too?

Re:Return on Investment (2, Funny)

argmanah (616458) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055758)

The average /. user who works in IT probably has later hours on the average compared to corporate America across the board. If you're the exception to this and have to wake up super early, we have positions open here, feel free to submit a resume.

Re:Return on Investment (1)

mini me (132455) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055972)

The cool thing about being an adult is that you have free will and are free to work the hours you want. Personally, I find a few hours during the afternoon and a few hours late in the evening work best for me, but you can go with what works best for you.

Re:Return on Investment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055710)

Pro: This would create jobs. For single parents and families where both parents work, they will not be able to drive their kid to school anymore thus increasing the need for buses.
Con: Kids missing the bus might not be able to make it to school and can use this as an excuse to ditch.

Re:Return on Investment (2, Insightful)

beaviz (314065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055842)

For single parents and families where both parents work, they will not be able to drive their kid to school anymore thus increasing the need for buses.

Are you kidding? How about these young people walk or ride the bicycle? Or are young people not fat enough?

Re:Return on Investment (1)

mini me (132455) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055996)

Seriously. If there is not already school bus service to your home, you most certainly do not need a ride from your parents.

Re:Return on Investment (1)

esme (17526) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055740)

So instead of getting into trouble in the afternoons, kids would get into trouble in the morning, and then skip school, too. I think we should just make the school day to 9-5, and use the extra time to add back the art, music, exercise, etc. that's been cut to make more time for test prep. Of course, that would cost real money, so it's not going to happen any time soon...

Re:Return on Investment (4, Insightful)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055890)

So instead of getting into trouble in the afternoons, kids would get into trouble in the morning,

Yeah, I remember waking up early all the time when I was in high school. Oh wait. No.. never.

I think we should just make the school day to 9-5, and use the extra time to add back the art, music, exercise, etc. that's been cut to make more time for test prep

Or even better, we could give kids free time so they can explore things they like rather than shoving things you like down their throats.

Re:Return on Investment (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055898)

They don't get up in the morning... that's the point.

Re:Return on Investment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34056018)

I dunno how you were as a kid, but I'd be damned if I was getting up earlier than necessary on a school day.

Re:Return on Investment (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055776)

Australians do it that way, starting at 10 am, there was an article about half a year ago on mindhacks about the adolescent sleep behaviour, with a lot of useful details.

For the furniture problem ... well, we're talking amercan students, so you should use steel, lots of it.

Re:Return on Investment (4, Insightful)

phsource (1284016) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055352)

As a college student, I can testify that an investment in the chair can pay off. Sure, there's teachers and books to spend. However, chairs, chalkboards, smartboards, and other classroom amenities play a part too. The chairs attached to a small writing pad (like the one linked to) are just horrible for a lecture or class. You can fit no more than a small notebook on the surface: want to get out your other notebook, a handout, or your laptop, and take a look at both at the same time? Tough luck! Of course, we shouldn't treat students like royalty and indulge in $800 Aeron chairs, and investment in teachers would help. But we should give them a practical environment where they can sit comfortably, take notes, and make the classroom an effective learning _environment_. After all, that's why people study in their libraries, not their rooms.

Re:Return on Investment (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055526)

Everyone I knew studied in their rooms- they were far more comfortable. The libraries were there for when they needed to look up references and to get large groups together. And with the internet the first became less useful.

Re:Return on Investment (4, Insightful)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055636)

As a former young person, I can say that if you bought nice chairs, they would not be nice for long.

You know the saying "People with kids can't have nice things"? Well, it's true. Keep them in the wood/metal/plastic chairs. Anything with padding is a waste of money.

Re:Return on Investment (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055946)

You're a former young person? Wow, me too! We should hang out.

Re:Return on Investment (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055990)

School chairs could be improved without getting "nice" chairs. For example, all of those one-piece desks would be infinitely more comfortable if they weren't one piece. Similarly, moving chairs slightly farther apart, and keeping chairs from squeaking.

The chairs at my college aren't particularly uncomfortable except for the problems I mentioned above, and they're all cheap wood and plastic.

Re:Return on Investment (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055866)

I think improved furniture would be a boon, but not to the tune of this ridiculous shit at $600.

First there's price. Yes, a $50 chair of ergonomic contours and aesthetically pleasing lines and tone would be better than a $5 chair of plastic shit. Perhaps wood, polished, gently curved and indented such to offer support without pressure points-- even cushionless this can be done. As much as this sounds like some major research, it's not; the concepts are roughly well understood and something roughly made to fit some basic ergonomic design patterns can both look like a normal chair and supply more comfort than a boxy piece of plastic shit. It doesn't have to be a $700 "perfect" (bullshit) executive chair with fancy cushions and swivel and such; improvements can be made at the lower price points.

Second, the visual noise is disgusting. Something more Shibui would be more conducive to the classroom environment. Something that occupies the mind with complexity without drawing attention. Elegant simplicity with infinite complexity.

What's with all this green martian space age bullshit?

Cheap -- to Replace! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055156)

Has the author ever looked at the typical school desk? Kids destroy these things--carve them up, knock them over, etc. Durability is worth something, but more importantly, this cheap furniture is cheap to replace. Lord knows it won't make it through more than a couple school seasons without taking a terrible beating. Expensive and comfortable stuff isn't likely to last very long, and is too costly to replace when the kids finally kill it.

Re:Cheap -- to Replace! (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055300)

I say ditch the desk part altogether.

I learned more in collaborative discussions with my teachers and peers than I ever did by reading and taking notes.

Re:Cheap -- to Replace! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055984)

Yay you can collaboratively discuss your way through long division and trigonometry. Whats your name? I need to black list you from potential employees.

Re:Cheap -- to Replace! (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055502)

Then the solution is to make desks out of whatever they made them from in the 60's/70's... because the school desks I used back then were well nigh indestructible.

Re:Cheap -- to Replace! (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055608)

It's called "wood". You get it by chopping up those big leafy things in forests... what are they called? Oh, "trees". Google has some pictures of them.

Re:Cheap -- to Replace! (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055792)

Actually I think he may be talking about Bakelite or another substance similar to it.

Re:Cheap -- to Replace! (1)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055958)

I learned about chopping trees in minecraft, try it! It's the closest thing to actually getting outside, or so they say.

Re:Cheap -- to Replace! (2, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055722)

Here [] is some durable, school appropriate furniture.

Re:Cheap -- to Replace! (2, Funny)

danlip (737336) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055980)

Fabulous. I love how a "feature" of each of their products is "attractive look". I have to disagree.

SURE! Why not?? (2, Informative)

metamechanical (545566) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055162)

My school district just declared that their budget is going to increase by 40% over the next 4 years, to over $180 million! Why not throw some of these in there too?? They already announced those numbers so they can let us know that unless we pass gargantuan levies over the next three years, they'll be $70 million in the hole by then - why not throw in some incredibly expensive chairs, too?

Re:SURE! Why not?? (3, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055634)

When the summary said "For school districts with deep pockets..." it really meant "For school districts that are able to reach deeply into the pockets of the local property owners..."

Re:SURE! Why not?? (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055902)

Where are you? It's hard to believe that any district would be able to call for 10% per year increases in this economy without there being some serious reasons behind it. I live in one of the most affluent counties in the US, and our school budget is frozen. Had there been freezes that they're trying to make up, or what?

The 'Right' Chair Indeed (2, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055176)

'We've seen in adults that if you put them in the right chair, their performance increases,'

The 'right' chair is my desk chair at home. My productivity is always better when I'm working from home rather than being on-site at a client.

Re:The 'Right' Chair Indeed (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055242)

I already told you, you can't telecommute!

Pointed-Haired Boss

Really? (2, Insightful)

Vortexcycle (1600003) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055178)

School systems with deep pockets eh? /sarcasm I guess that is true. You know, I've always just kept spending more and more all my life. It's a great way to survive, look cool, and generally act as a good little consumer. Am I the only one that sees the idea behind this as just insanity?

$40 Price point ... for a reason (5, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055188)

Have you seen what kids are capable of doing to furniture?

It is hard enough to replace a $40 chair, and for $500 I can replace a dozen or so of the "elite" chairs. No thanks. It is simply amazing how easy it is to spend money, when it isn't yours.

And working in classrooms all day, I can tell you the chairs are the least of the distractions in the classroom.

I don't think so.. (4, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055196)

Actually when I was in school, I never found the seats to be a problem.

What I _did_ find to be an annoyance was being stuck in them for hours at a time. This was particularily bad in the earlier grades where you tended to stay in the same room.

Even today I have no problem working in the most uncomfortable chair as long as I can get up every half hour or so and stretch my legs.. even if it is just a quick walk around the building.

I think this should some how be adopted in schools. I don't know how the logistics would work as I remember just getting everyone back after recess was a chore.. but I think getting away from the desk, even temporarily, is going to do way more than some new fangled "node chair".

As a side thought: most uncomfortable chairs I find are the ones who either don't have a locking back, or have a back that can't quite be adjusted to the right angle (that is, you have a choice of 90 degree perfect right angle, or fully reclined).

Re:I don't think so.. (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055472)

Grades 1 through 6 for me had 30 to 45 minute sessions throughout the day, and you almost always changed classrooms for each session (This room is the Math room, that room is the English room, that Room is the Music room) - so anytime you switched subjects you were basically switching rooms.

Ultimately, Junior high came around, and it was basically the same, except classes were 45 minutes to an hour ish, and you had lockers, and slightly more time in between classes. Then High school came around and it was almost the same except classes were at least an hour long, sometimes 2. Which did seem a bit confining but it was something I got worked into so it wasn't so bad.

Was that not the case for you?

Re:I don't think so.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055624)

Grade School in the US (K-5, 6 years), is typically much different.

All day, every day, same teacher/room for all math/reading/grammer/etc (basics)

The days listed below are just random, for the sake of example:
Tuesday was music day, where you'd spend an hour in music class
Wednesday was art, you'd go to the "art class"
Thurs was PE class for an hour...

So you'd get a break from your primary teacher for up to an hour at a time, a few days a week, but it definitely was NOT multiple times a day, nor was it every day.

I do want to point out that back when, we still had "recess" where we got to run around the playground like maniacs for a half hour to wear us out.

Think of the fat children (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055208)

Its crucial that a student be able to comfortably adjust their space between the chair and the desk.
I was an overweight child in elementary school, and at times not having a properly maintained desk meant that I would be extremely uncomfortable at times.

balancing act (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055240)

Though the state of school chairs could definitely be improved (at least the ones circa 1989-2001 when I was in school), cost is a huge factor, and too much comfort will just put them to sleep.

Think of the children (except when it's money) (1)

line-bundle (235965) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055264)

If they care so much about the children then they should be pouring money into all aspects of education. They can't really afford more that $40?

I think they are pervs because they only think of the children in aspects of porn.

Re:Think of the children (except when it's money) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055594)

"F^#% the Children" - George Carlin

Chairs?? (1)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055268)

How about

- Train and pay teachers (yes this is socialism)
- Gut "no child left behind"

Or.. yknow.. put the cheetos and mountain dew generation into Aerons, that will fix everything

Furniture Business this slow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055278)

and I thought software sales was a tough business...

There are better things (1)

whong09 (1307849) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055328)

Would rather have excellent and inspiring teachers.

Also good cafeteria food.

fat kids (2, Interesting)

jonpublic (676412) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055380)

Funny that I saw this article earlier today.

"CHILDREN have grown too big for their school chairs, a survey of 750 schools revealed.

Teachers said "desk and chair sizes were often inappropriate".

It is understood the NSW Education Department has been taking orders for custom-sized chairs.

Paediatric dietician Susie Burrell said children who were overweight often didn't carry obvious fat but instead looked older than their age." []

Re:fat kids (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055956)

Actually, this is a real problem at the college level too!

I was just recently reading the story of a gal who started college and was unable to fit in the desks provided in one of her classrooms. She was determined not to let that get in the way of earning a credit in the course, so she started sitting on the floor. Unfortunately, she was told she wasn't legally allowed to do that (fire hazard, in case people scramble for exits and trample you in the process, or you serve to block them from exiting safely because they trip over you or what-not). She demanded alternate seating arrangements but was ignored repeatedly. Meanwhile, she was failing the course. You'd think that in this day and age, something like this simply wouldn't happen. Schools want your tuition money so badly, and there's all the possibility of lawsuits .... but especially in parts of the southern USA, it's apparently a common problem.

I heard that in another similar situation, another gal had to resort to sitting in a separate chair, pulled up next to the side of the teacher's desk. (This worked because the teacher said it was ok, and he was the type who preferred to stand up and lecture, walking around the front of the room, anyway.)

I remember back when I was at our local community college in the early 1990's, the desks they provided didn't really provide a lot of room ... so if they're still using that same type of furniture? You don't have to be especially huge to find it uncomfortable.

Keep going backwards. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055394)

The American education system is mind boggling. They pay teachers shit wages and cut funding for schools. So teaching isn't an attractive career path for somebody with say a biology degree who'd want to teach real science, or somebody with a math degree, or any kind of real specialized training that would be beneficial to children. The goal in the states is apparently to do these quick fixes that look good but don't actually help. You've got a teacher with an English specialization teaching physics with a class of 40 students, and the kids aren't doing well? Duuuh must be that all the kids don't have comfy chairs.

At first I thought you were suggesting $600 chairs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055396)

but then I realized you were joking. You are joking, aren't you?

This is how it works, aim at the parents (2)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055408)

So you tell the parents, "Your kids will be smarter if you use product X." Parents in the hyper competitive nature of schools today will do whatever it takes to make sure their child gets the $500 aeron chair. The parents will scrambled to pump as much money as they can into making sure their kid gets the advantage.

What do you think Apple is doing trying to get iPads into every classroom? Because Apple makes more money off of selling 10million iPads every year to schools, then it does when they buy books/pencils/paper.

Think of the children and your wallet will open up.

Kids like to stand (5, Interesting)

ShavedOrangutan (1930630) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055410)

My wife teaches 2nd grade and most of her students prefer to stand while they work. So she lets them stand. The tables in the class room are adjusted to be comfortable while standing (thanks to her nerd husband who always carries tools) and the kids love it.

At last, a sensible education idea (1)

Seriousity (1441391) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055424)

We've seen in adults that if you put them in the right chair, their performance increases ... Is the same true for children?

- Jack Dennerlein, Harvard

This makes so much sense, if we attached fixtures to hold their arms in place, the kids would be unable to reach away from the desk, forcing them to focus on their work thus greatly increasing the efficiency of the education system. I want my tax dollars being spent on sensible projects that will help my kids to learn, and this one is a prime example - when you think about it, it has multifaceted benefits. For example, the kids would no longer be able to throw paper balls in class or stick gum under the desks, thus improving the experience of teacher and janitor alike - we would probably see a decrease in those teacher strikes.

Obviously Idea and Steelcase are out to make more than their share of money, such a system needn't be greatly above the current market average. Sure, a lock and key mechanism might bring the price up slightly, but we should still manage under $100 per unit. The potential increase here is just too great to be ignored; I for one will be presenting this option to my the board of trustees at my son's school, of which my wife happens to be a member.

Someone tag this 'suddenoutbreakofcommonsense'

Not the problem. (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055448)

No amount of comfort is going to help a child pay attention to a subject they aren't interested in. A more comfortable position won't help me pay attention in my history class. On the contrary, it will only help keep my mind focused on a distraction, or worse doze off.

Mmmmm why not... (1)

Ramirozz (758009) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055452)

why not rethink the entire educational system instead of changing desk... I mean... WT*

No (2, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055462)

As part of its reimagine the 21st-century classroom project, Slate asks: Is the best way to fix the American classroom to improve the furniture?


Next question?

Seat with a small desk attached to it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055504)

Seat with a small desk attached to it? That must be an American thing due the fact that where I went to school, desks and chairs were always separate things. That also provided a decent sized desk to use.

Re:Seat with a small desk attached to it? (5, Insightful)

Renraku (518261) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055834)

You're right, it is.

When I was in elementary school, we had these. We started out with openable desks that you could put your stuff in, you could get comfortable, arrange your chair however you wanted. It was nice, there was no left or right handed distinction. They were always right in front of you.

As I moved through the grades, my left-handed self was forced to use right-handed desks, which caused cramps and gave me a 'hunch.' There was no storage on or under the desk. There was no getting comfortable. Just 3 hour stretches of nothing but discomfort. If you were tall or fat, you'd be uncomfortable all day long.

I'm sure... (1)

AntEater (16627) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055532)

that this is the difference between our public schools and those in countries that are eating our lunch in math and the sciences. "If only our kids had good chairs like the schools in Japan...." School should be about productivity but learning. As a kid, I could never sit still long enough to notice the fit of the chair anyway. This sounds like someone has some chairs to sell at a nice profit margin.

Regardless, I know there's a Steve Ballmer/chair joke to be made here but I can't seem to put it together right now.

get rid of the chairs and desks entirely (2, Insightful)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055540)

make them all stand at tables and do their work. Nothing brings focus to a task like having to stand to do it.

Re:get rid of the chairs and desks entirely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055670)

Ohh, and whips, don't forget the whips.

Not quite... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055614)

While a few stupid adults park their butts in $700 Aeron chairs [] , kids still sprawl and slump and fidget and dangle their way through...

There, fixed that for you.

Dubious (1)

farnsworth (558449) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055650)

Having two elementary-school-aged kids, I have observed that the quality/ergo/comfort of furniture is mostly irrelevant to kids. I do not know why this is, perhaps because of a different weight:surface area ratio, or some similar physiological difference. My son's mattress is a "kids" mattress, and it is the most uncomfortable mattress I have ever been on. But he sleeps fine, and he's unable to talk about the difference between his mattress and my mattress. My daughter does her homework at the dinner table, in the most unergonomic way possible. I help her get more comfortable and rearrange things to be better, but I often get the feeling that I do so in vain since she happily completes her homework either way.

So I find it dubious that a kids aeron would make a big difference in a child's ability to learn or focus. But what do I know? I'm curious if there is more data on this.

A $600 plastic chair huh? (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055678)

I'm not sure what makes this chair so much better than the existing desks kids use. It doesn't appear to be padded, although presumably the seatback flexes a bit? It's on wheels that will be clogged up with gunk in a year and mean that the chairs will never sit still properly. It has one of those obnoxious swivel desks that look great until you realize that there's nowhere to swivel them to that isn't in the way. Sure there's space for a bookbag underneath the seat, a feature that has been standard on desks since they were first invented. Oh, and it costs 15 times as much as a standard desk? Somehow I don't think this is going to be a roaring success.

Oxymoron (1)

travdaddy (527149) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055700)

For school districts with deep pockets

Isn't that an oxymoron? Either that or I'm being too US centric...

Take a point from theaters (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055708)

Inverse stadium seating with cubicle walls - teach can see each student but none of them can see each other

Say....wha? Oh, yeah and iPads for everyone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055734)

Oh yeah, that'll fix the problem - let's through more money at it. I know Johnny isn't learning enough because his desk is uncomfortable. We need lazy-boy desks with iPod docks. That's the ticket.

I do believe that a big part of the solution might be eliminating people from the decision making process. (Like whoever is trying to sell a lot of premium desks to schools.) AKA, eliminate Bureaucracy. Let's start by closing the Federal DOE and then having States eliminate a lot of their Administrative overhead. After the system has time to adjust to that, let's then ask the Teachers what they need to best educate the children. I bet you'll find that it's not desks by Cadillac either.

Oh, and who in the world gets a $700 desk chair at their desk besides the CEO? I work at a primarily desk job and my chair is some $50 bargain special that was thrown out by another department twice before I was able to get it. It's uncomfortable with no lumbar support, squeaks like no tomorrow and could fall apart at any minute. So, before you squeeze more tax dollars out of me for Little Johnny's premium desk, how about you let me keep enough that I can afford to by my own comfortable chair. GEEZ!

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055748)

My office chair cost well under the $40 price point, and I'm quite happy with it, thanks. I don't see any need at all for anything more expensive: this one does everything I need. It moves up & down so I can position it at the right level, it's on casters, and it swivels. It has a base, arms, and a back, all of which are padded and covered in artificial leather. What more do you need?

Kids don't weigh as much as adults (1)

rfugger (923317) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055790)

Kids don't weigh as much as adults, in general, so the quality of their furniture isn't as important. Also because they have so much fidgety energy.

Aeron Chairs (1)

Polybius (743489) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055816)

I have a hard time believing there is anywhere remotely close to $500-$1300(new Aeron) in materials and amortized research and development in the cost of those chairs. They are priced prohibitively high.

There is no doubt in my mind if they reduced the prices the chairs 1/4 to 1/3 of the current prices, the company would still turn a descent profit on each unit, and sales would explode.

Not more expensive, but better ergonomically (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055830)

As a recent escapee/graduate of a High School institution, I can say that the desks actually were in fairly good condition. Though I was in more upper-level classes, so perhaps the kids in them were a little bit less likely to destroy things that they knew they had to sit in day after day. The chairs were horribly uncomfortable - for someone like me who's short but with a longer torso, it was painful to lean back fully in them because their tops met my lower back oddly, but then hard to reach the ground when seated fully as well. Friends also agreed that the chairs were not the best design - is it that much more expensive to get cheap plastic chairs with slightly higher backs, so you don't end up with odd back pain and neck strain as a result of having to sit in them for 8 hours in a day?

I thought all of the fat kids lived in America (1)

n-baxley (103975) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055852)

Wait, I thought child obesity was only a problem in America! There are fat kids in the rest of the world too!?

Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055910)

A I am not sitting in a 700$ chair on work or at home. An to boost my performance I need enough free time for things like fitness or other sports to practice (not watch). And kids perform best when they have enough exercise outside of the classroom. Also it helps when they have enough well trained teachers, classroom which are not cold in winter, wet in spring and autumn. A yes and they are better when they are not taught to compete, but learn form each other and help each other. Being an greedy egoist can be done later in life.

so i guess i went to a rich school (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055916)

we had these designer desk...things.

IDEOT chair.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055934)

That IDEO chair looks nice enough but it should cost about $40 on State/Federal Contract. Sure as heck aren't going to see me spending $399 on one.

Or maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055948) could get the kids out of the chair for a bit by actually giving them reasonable recess periods instead?

All I can say is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055952)

thank fuck there are nice private schools.

Riiiiiiight (4, Insightful)

dazedNconfuzed (154242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055954)

While adults park their butts in $700 Aeron chairs

Hah. Most of my career my butt has been parked in whatever aging POS I could scrounge that wouldn't fall apart.

Insofar as I do have a nice new chair now (my first), may I observe that those who DO have $700 Aeron chairs do so because they are creating wealth, not just absorbing material. (Those unclear on rules of logic are reminded that the last sentence does not mean those who do not have an expensive chair are not creating wealth.) One EARNS comfort as a matter of surplus, it is not "deserved" by simple existence and presence. The expensive chair sat upon is a consequence of productivity, not a primary means thereto.

The "to improve education, throw more money at it" crowd fails to realize that by far the biggest factor in education is the student's own willingness to learn. If they don't want to be there, students will squirm just as much in an expensive chair as a cheap one, and get just as little out of the experience.

You're joking! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34056006)

Those "Node" chairs have no padding, practically nonexistant armrests and are completely non-adjustable. They don't look anymore comfortable than any school chair I've ever sat in.

But they have tiny wheels! and a tiny desktop! and only cost 15 times the price of a standard chair!

What a deal! I'll take two!

Office Chairs (1)

sopwath (95515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34056016)

Where do you work that you get $700 chairs? I'd be happy with something with an adjustable back and arm rests that are in tact. I've yet to work a job where anything but the larger meeting rooms have nice chairs in them, and that's only because outside clients have to sit in there.

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