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X-Prize Founder Wants Ideas For Fixing Education

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the can't-be-solved-by-a-few-friends-in-a-garage dept.

Education 479

An anonymous reader writes "X-Prize Founder Peter Diamandis, speaking at SXSW, says he wants to set up a $10 million prize for fixing education — but he needs help figuring out how to target the problem. From the article: 'He said he has considered multiple directions that an Education X Prize could take, such as coming up with better ways to crowd-source education, or rewarding the creation of "powerful, addictive game" that promotes education. But he isn’t sure which way to go. There’s no shortage of high-tech visionaries and tycoons these days, running around with ideas about how to fix education. Many of them are finding, though, that technology alone isn’t enough. Exciting ideas founder quickly if they don’t sustain motivation in students who perform at widely different levels. Other challenges include the need to engage effectively with school districts, teachers and parents.'"

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479 comments

Jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39320803)

Kids need more financially rewarding (and stable) jobs to aspire to than drug dealer.

Re:Jobs (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321135)

Unless we turn the clock back on technology the market will never generate those jobs again, they are gone and never coming back ... not even if we stop importing everything from China.

Re:Jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321263)

My solution to that would be making pot legal. Then drug dealing would be rewarding AND stable!

Re:Jobs (1)

godel_56 (1287256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321401)

My solution to that would be making pot legal. Then drug dealing would be rewarding AND stable!

Nah, the trade would be taken over by the big tobacco companies, using pot grown and imported from China.

Re:Jobs (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321333)

Kids need more financially rewarding (and stable) jobs to aspire to than professional sports player.

Unions (5, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320809)

Personally, I think parents and teachers unions are the biggest parts of the problems, or are certainly high on the list.

Re:Unions (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39320897)

That's definitely a large part of the problem. I work in public education and on a daily basis see parents who have no interest in their children's education.
Problem is, these parents generally didn't care while they were in school so the "school is boring, there's no need to learn" nonsense is generational, largely caused by the teacher problem.

You have teachers who get tenure, have a job protected by the union and no longer care to even try to do it well.
Ditch the teacher unions and more proactively evaluate teachers based on technology skills, classroom leadership and student involvement in the learning process.
The good teachers aren't always the ones whose students have the best grades( standardized testing I'm pointing at you), they're the ones where the students WANT to be involved in the class process. You teach someone to have a thirst for knowledge you have a productive member of society, you teach them to regurgitate textbooks and they can't think on their own without direct instruction.

Re:Unions (5, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320923)

I think a voucher system would go a long way. Teachers unions hate it though.

Re:Unions (1, Interesting)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321031)

There have been (tentative) steps made into "AI"-based teacher bots for students. If there were a decent FOSS AI chat-bot base to work from, the system could be built to work within a certain set of boundaries and teach students from there (I'm more than half convinced Apple's TSPS chat is mostly bots that hand off to a person if they can't answer the question, the same can be applied here).

If you remove the need for a teacher to do a lot of the basics, either the teachers will start to teach properly, or they will find a different profession. There are additional benefits such as repetition, ease of updating a text book, and so on.

I disagree. (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320903)

You're going to have to specify what you mean by "unions" being the problem.

Parents can cause problems by not providing a stable home environment and emphasis on learning. Or parents can help by providing those. So "parents" being a "problem" ... again, you have to specify what you mean.

But first off, someone needs to define the "problem".
What, exactly, needs to be improved?
Are there other countries that are doing better?
If so, what are their approaches?

Re:I disagree. (4, Insightful)

nbauman (624611) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320941)

Since the teachers in most of the countries whose students are doing better than the U.S. are heavily unionized, such as Finland, Germany and Canada, the problem must be something other than unions.

In fact, within the U.S., students in union states are doing better than students in non-union states.

Re:I disagree. (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321121)

Since the teachers in most of the countries whose students are doing better than the U.S. are heavily unionized, such as Finland, Germany and Canada, the problem must be something other than unions.

I've never been to Finland, but unions in other countries are not the same as unions in the US. For example, in California, a teacher gets tenure after two years. How do you fire a bad teacher after that?

The problem is not having unions, it's the type of unions we have in the US.

Re:I disagree. (2)

sternmath (1055910) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321265)

...

..., in California, a teacher gets tenure after two years. How do you fire a bad teacher after that? ....

Your question does not follow from your premise. After a teacher has tenure, the termination process is fairly simple, as with almost any employee working under a contract. The employer (school district in this case) simply has to document the ways in which the employee is failing to live up to the contract, and they terminate him. Or her. Tenure is not, and has never been, a guarantee of lifetime employment. Tenure is simply a promise of due process. Nothing more.

Re:I disagree. (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321393)

After a teacher has tenure, the termination process is fairly simple, as with almost any employee working under a contract.

No, it is not fairly simple. It is a long process, and carries with it the high probability of a lawsuit.

Re:I disagree. (1, Insightful)

Glothar (53068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321275)

For example, in California, a teacher gets tenure after two years. How do you fire a bad teacher after that?

The same way you fire anyone else: By firing them. The "tenure" everyone talks about isn't "tenure". The only difference is that after two years, the school has to document a reason for the firing. Before that, they can fire the teacher at any time, for no reason at all.

Re:I disagree. (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321473)

You are assuming that, in the countries mentioned, "firing bad teachers" is the key to their success in education. In reality, I suspect that they do not fire many teachers at all.

Re:I disagree. (3, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321041)

You're going to have to specify what you mean by "unions" being the problem.

If your solution to the USA's education problem doesn't involve weeding out the bad teachers, then your plan is fucked.
And unions make it exceedingly difficult to get rid of bad teachers.

I think you have that backwards. (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321153)

So X (what is wrong with education here) has not been defined ...
Which means that a plan to fix X is sort of impossible at this point ...

But you've already determined that there needs to be a way of "weeding out the bad teachers" in the plan.

Sounds to me that your REAL goal is "weeding out" some teachers. And then basing a "plan" around that.

How about we stick to finding X first?
What, specifically, is WRONG with education today?
Is any other country doing it better? How?

Re:I disagree. (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321231)

Unions can only accomplish what the political and judicial system allows them to accomplish. You're confusing a symptom with the disease, which is a government fucked up by money and a court system fucked up by lawyers.

Re:I disagree. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321067)

I'm not the OP, but perhaps I can expand on his points.

You've pretty much hit the nail on the head that some parents just don't care and this is going to have a negative impact on their child's education. I'm not even sure if that can be fixed as some of that may be cultural or rooted too deeply to fix in a practical manner.

The unions can definitely be a problem at times. The general assumption is that a teacher's union will place the good of the teachers ahead of anything else. Here's an example of how unions can be incredibly counter productive [msn.com] . Unions certainly have their good points, but they can become entirely self-serving and more harmful than good as well.

We can easily define the problem as "our students are not doing as well as students in other first world countries and we feel that they should be performing at a higher level and learning more from their education." Some posters on /. have even pointed out (whether it's true or not I don't know.) that education in this country is getting worse compared to where it was in the past. From there it follows what it is that we'd like to improve.

However, even if other countries have good solutions, America isn't the same. In certain parts of the country, there are a lot of people who don't grow up speaking English as a first language or don't have their English language skills as developed as other students. This already puts them at a severe disadvantage. Other parts of the country don't have a culture that values education, whereas other countries may have a population that values education highly. Simply applying their methods may not work and in some cases may leave us worse off than we are now. That's why this is such a hard problem.

Re:I disagree. (2)

Glothar (53068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321329)

Note that its not the union that's forcing these them to stay employed. That's the rules of their contract that say they can't be fired without documented reasons. Most of them there will probably be fired as soon as the city figures itself out and finished the hearing. The others are being forced to not work while false/fraudulent accusations are leveled against them.

Those rules (requiring termination have a substantial basis) are there to protect tax payers just as much as they protect teachers.

The problem is a screwed up court/mediation system that cannot process them fast enough.

You'll find that teachers (the ones who are actually teaching) hate the teachers in those rubber rooms just as much as you do. Yet, you're quick to paint them all as scheming and lazy.

Re:I disagree. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321095)

You're going to have to specify what you mean by "unions" being the problem.

Easy. You need a way to get rid of bad teachers. This should be obvious.

Unions in many states have made that extremely difficult. Unions are there for the teachers, not for the kids.

Re:Unions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39320917)

I tend to agree. Not that I don't think good teachers should be rewarded better. However, the bad teachers' jobs are far too protected. Teachers should have fear and reward motivating them just like everyone else. Bigger rewards for the good guys, fear of losing their job for the ones who have lost interest in life (which is how most of my teachers were)

Make Academics a Spectator Sport (4, Insightful)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320963)

The biggest problem I see is the lack of streaming in education. Trying to give everyone the same education is simply stupid. There is no way that you can teach at a level such that the slowest students are keeping up while the top students are stretched - someone, somewhere has to suffer. However the moment you try to stream students there are cries of discrimination and unfairness. Frankly I do not think that education will be fixed until there are governments willing to tackle this politically sensitive issue.

The curious thing is that, somehow, this does not apply to sports. Nobody would think it sensible that footballers, athletes etc. are held back and denied more advanced training because it is discriminatory against those who have less physical ability...but the moment it comes to academics it is a completely different story. I think the key difference is that society can easily see the benefit of a good sports person - they entertain. However the benefit of a good academic - jobs created, industries founded, science discovered etc. - is less clear and being smart is perceived as benefiting the individual only.

So perhaps that X prize should go to the best idea for turning academic subjects into a spectator sport. The moment we have people interested in watching teams of physicists competing there will be no problem in getting a more rigorous education for those who need it.

Re:Make Academics a Spectator Sport (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321039)

They should take a page out of the NFL and have a bounty. $10,000 if you get someone denied tenure.

Sounds like a good start. (3, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321069)

If you're on the high school football team you practice football after school with a coach dedicated to improving your skills.

Where's the after school coach for math? If you have a tutor it is usually to bring you up to the level of the other students. Not to help you become better than the math students in other schools.

Yet someone skilled in moving a ball down a field gets paid a LOT more than someone skilled in math.

Re:Sounds like a good start. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321205)

You said that someone moving a football down the field is paid much more than someone skilled at math. While professional athletes are often paid extremely well there are not especially many of them. Looking at the NFL there are about 1700 players. Those 1700 are the best at football out of 300 million people. Most of us here are presumably good at math relative to the average population but I doubt that many here are in the top .0005% of mathematicians and if they are they can presumably find work on wall street that pays as well while not leaving them with brain damage. Sports are celebrated but so is being a hedge fund trader.

Re:Unions (2)

Reverberant (303566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321177)

Personally, I think parents and teachers unions are the biggest parts of the problems, or are certainly high on the list.

If the problem were "unions" you would expect that states without collective bargaining requirements would outperform states with those requirements.They don't. [shankerblog.org]

Re:Unions (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321249)

Yea we'll just pay the teachers less. That will work.

LOL: The Big bad unions. Oogabooga! (2)

ediron2 (246908) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321435)

Meh, I think it's far more damaging to (A) think a school is a business or (B) pay teachers less than any other degree-requiring profession.

The day that a stellar teacher's pay exceeds other professions, you get to talk about how teachers have become too powerful. Until then, engineers and lawyers and doctors and politicians get zero sympathy from me when they rant about invented horrors involving teachers unionizing.

Personally, I also know that opinions are like assholes. Everybody's got one, taint nothin' special about yours.

--
(That taint pun was a freebie, BTW. Froth up some lube and a bit of fecal matter and you've got a Santorum.)

I'll founder you... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39320825)

Does no one fucking proofread these things?
They founder quickly?

Oh yeah baby, I foundered all over your mom last night too.

Re:I'll founder you... (2)

Oswald (235719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320951)

founder [thefreedictionary.com] (intransitive verb) , To fail utterly; collapse

What's wrong with that?

Re:I'll founder you... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321035)

Well, I learned something today.

Thank you!

"But he isnâ(TM)t sure which way to go." (0)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320827)

$10 million for the first contestant to get a chimpanzee through ed school. Or is that too easy?

Parents . . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39320835)

So . . . you think you want to fix education. So how are you going to fix the moron parents who DON'T CARE?

Easy to say. Hard to do. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39320841)

Easy. Fuck the union. Make it a system where you can get fired if you don't do well. Base pay on performance, not seniority.

What's that you say? Performance evals might not be fair? Welcome to every other business in America. Deal with it. If the manager doesn't give you good evals, find another company (district). If you move from district to district and keep getting crappy evals, guess what? The problem is YOU.

Likewise, if parents hate your school so much that they are willing to drive 2 hours into another district, guess what? Your school should go "bankrupt", just like companies do. Not your fault you say? Tough place to run a school? Good. Find another district.

So the district has no school, or the school always sucks? Guess what. It's not a problem with the administrators OR the teachers. It's your city. It sucks. There could be any number of reasons your fine city has turned into Crackville. Fix that, and the schools will fix themselves.

These are the problems with schools. Everybody knows what has to be done to fix them. The hard part is forcing them to do it.

Re:Easy to say. Hard to do. (4, Insightful)

Toam (1134401) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320967)

So if you're in an area where children aren't "performing" due largely to the attitude of their parents, and your performance evaluation is bad, all the teachers should leave and go somewhere else?

What you're saying is that people who live in an area where most parents don't care about their childrens education (even if they themselves DO care about their childrens education) don't deserve to have a school.

Also, it means that a teacher who lives (works) in an area where parents are move involved in their childrens education will have to work "less hard" for a greater pay cheque than a teacher in a "worse" area would.

Not everything should be run like a business.

Re:Easy to say. Hard to do. (3, Interesting)

adamchou (993073) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321495)

one of my friends runs the premier english school [treehouse.com.tw] in taipei and what his philosophy in schooling isn't just educating the students, its educating the parents. he literally has classes that the parents are forced to go to where he teaches them how to parent their children because the majority of parents don't know how to do it right. and his method has been successful. he consistently produces children that score highest in the country and make it into the ivy league schools back here in the states.

Re:Easy to say. Hard to do. (2)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320979)

That's your answer? Ban collective bargaining rights and privatise education? The reasons why that is totally wrong are too numerous to mention. I realise that you are probably from the US where teachers not being fireable is a major problem, and where many schools perform poorly without any consequences. But even if you solved both of those problems, that only gets you on par with the standard school system functioning efficiently, like say in Germany. This is a system that was created over a century ago to create a society of workers to fuel the industrial revolution, which in turn was based on a system for the nobility to educate their children to rule over the peasants. The idea that new ideas are needed and better systems are possible is not restricted to the problems of your local elementary school. This is a worldwide issue and if your society is having problems getting the current system to work, you should be even more in favour of coming up with a new one.

Re:Easy to say. Hard to do. (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321073)

Easy. Fuck the union. Make it a system where you can get fired if you don't do well. Base pay on performance, not seniority.

Ok, so how do you want this to be measured? It's easy to scream "performance", but much harder to actually quantify. By student performance on tests? That what we have now, and we have teachers just teaching tests. And what if a teacher's class has a large number of students that are bad test takers? Are they SOL? Observations? Unless you are constantly observing the class, those would be worthless. Student evaluations? If the teacher actually disciplines their students, the students will give them bad reviews because they dont like the teacher. But a teacher that let's the students run the class will get a good eval because the students like him. So if you say performance based, you better have a good system in mind. Otherwise you contribute nothing.

Re:Easy to say. Hard to do. (2)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321307)

If teachers can teach kids to pass a sufficiently rigorous test, I think we could all be pretty satisfied. The problem is the test, not that performance is linked to testing.

Make the test much, much longer. It should be 4 or 5 days long at the end of each year. Make the tests much more broad as well. Then let the teachers teach to it.

Why innovate (5, Interesting)

obi1one (524241) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320853)

Why are we trying to innovate to fix education? A quick search indicates we are around 15th in reading and science, worse in math. Doesn't that mean there are 15 countries doing it better which we could try to emulate them rather than spending money trying to create something cool and new?

Re:Why innovate (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39320891)

All variables being the same yes. Issue is that in most of those countries teachers are held to higher esteem and pay and/or students and their families are held to more rigorous standards of behavior and academics. Two simple variables that are unlikely to change in this country.

Re:Why innovate (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39320937)

I'll bet it means there are 14 countries with no niggers in them.

Re:Why innovate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321005)

You do not belong here! Leave now and take your ideas with you!

Re:Why innovate (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321017)

The reason the US scores poorly is the low end of the spectrum does very poorly. The top 10% of US students are as good or better than the top 10% from anywhere in the world.

Re:Why innovate (2)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321021)

If you're looking at a ranking like this one [guardian.co.uk] , then the answer is.. the sample size and actual differences in performance might not be large enough to make any substantive conclusions about the nations ahead of us.

For one thing, fewer than half of the "better than US" nations on that list have populations larger than 10 million (iceland has less than half the population of Rhode Island, even...). Next, the scores of the top 20 or so nations are within about 10%, so I'm not sure that being third vs thirteenth in the rankings is worth more than bragging rights.

Certainly, we should look at what everyone is doing and see what is working and what isn't, but it's not so cut and dry that what we're doing is significantly inferior to what other nations are doing.

Let's Innovate (1)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321023)

As someone living in one of those countries, I want innovation. If your country has no interest in participating that's fine, but don't presume to speak for everyone.

Re:Why innovate (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321133)

The problem is averages and economics. Our best schools are better than their best schools and are the best in the world. However our worst schools are worse than their worst schools. So we average out to 15th. The problem is in the US schools are not uniformly funded. In rich areas, tax money pays for short falls from state and federal funding. As a result, rich areas have excellent schools and poor areas have bad schools.

The bad schools are then made even worse though the idiocy of Charter Schools, Voucher Programs, No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top, etc.. These programs just funnel away money from the areas that need them and do nothing to solve the underlying social-economic problem that is the root of the problem.

Finland (3, Informative)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321283)

Before someone mods you down, the head of the Finish education system (rated at the top), completely agrees with you -- they specifically avoid the competition aspects of education:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/ [theatlantic.com]

With America's manufacturing industries now in decline, the goal of educational policy in the U.S. -- as articulated by most everyone from President Obama on down -- is to preserve American competitiveness by doing the same thing. Finland's experience suggests that to win at that game, a country has to prepare not just some of its population well, but all of its population well, for the new economy. To possess some of the best schools in the world might still not be good enough if there are children being left behind.

It's about cooperation, not competition. They let the teachers judge the progress, not standardized testing from on-high. There are no private schools. There are no fees for education (other than taxes).

Re:Why innovate (when there are no jobs...) (1)

neurocutie (677249) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321233)

fixing education requires fixing what you want to happen after education... no fix for education will work if the job market after education doesn't match the educational goals. and no changes to the job market will work without the corresponding changing in country's economic engine(s).

conversely, fix the economic engines, create the jobs needed, education fixes follow BUT you cannot allow people to coast along sucking off the system not following this track. There needs to also be a strong disincentive for the choice of being an unproductive member of society...

Re:Why innovate (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321267)

Doesn't that mean there are 15 countries doing it better which we could try to emulate them rather than spending money trying to create something cool and new?

There are almost always significant social and cultural differences that prevent foreign models of education from being adopted in the USA.
Fixing education isn't just about schools, in the USA, it's also about the underlying fabric of society.

The problem (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39320867)

The problem is schools are damm little about education anymore. They are babysitters.

That and 'no child left behind' means most classes move at the speed of the stupidest kids.. And you know.. Some of those precious little snowflakes actually ARE stupid.

Between all that bs. The standardized testing which is all the schools really care about because their funding is tied to it. And the teachers unions that prevent actually getting rid of bad teachers... Thats the problem.

It's gotten alot worse in the last 30 years.

How to fix it? Pay teachers more. FIRE the crappy ones. Get rid of no child left behind bs and standardized testing/funding ties.

The world is a hard place. School should be preparing them for that reality. Not this bullcrap that 'everyone gets a medal'.

But some peoples feelings might be hurt. So it's not going to happen anytime soon. Not in my lifetime.

Re:The problem (2)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321349)

With free school choice I don't see what the problem is with standardized testing, the testing just sets a minimum standard ... if the tests and benchmarks are well designed I don't see a problem with standardized testing (poor performing schools should get extra funding to start with and help to get up to scratch, and their benchmarks should be weighted based on the academic aptitude of entering students etc). Let the parents decide what they want on top of the minimum.

Even teaching to the test is not a problem with well written test, if the best way to do well on an unknown test is to know the curriculum then teaching to the test is simply teaching the curriculum ...

Looking in the wrong places (5, Interesting)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320883)

From the article: 'He said he has considered multiple directions that an Education X Prize could take, such as coming up with better ways to crowd-source education, or rewarding the creation of "powerful, addictive game" that promotes education.

This isn't a game or something that is fixed by simply throwing money at. It is a social problem first and foremost. The culture of this country does not appreciate education, and the idea of studying as hard as South Koreans or Japanese is seen as if it were child abuse or something like that.

But he isn’t sure which way to go.

Look at Japan, South Korean, Germany, Finland. Copy, adapt, rinse and repeat. Moreover, for changes specific to our country, I would suggest the following:

1. Get rid of summer school (or provide vouchers for low-income people to put their kids in summer camps.)

2. From that above, increase the number of school hours during the year, like in Japan or Germany, or like in almost any other country, developed and otherwise.

3. Teach kids to stand up when a teacher enters and leaves a room, and teach them, no, put them to clean their own class rooms as part of their daily school day.

4. Give teachers better pay and better training.

5. Don't pass kids to the next grade unless they have actually demonstrated they are capable off. Enough of giving HS degrees to kids who LITERALLY cannot read or add fractions.

6. De-emphasize 4-year college degrees. Instead, emphasize vocational training at the HS and community college level. That is, implement something akin to that the Germans and Japanese have.

7. Increase the number of commercials that laud education. Increase the number of educational programs (.ie. musicals and documentaries) in TV. Compare the number of educational programs and commercials in Japanese TV to ours, and you'll see the difference.

Do that and in a generation you'll see a change, all without throwing the coffers out of the window and without looking for the next e-silver bullet.

You can throw billions at the problem, but if we don't change our culture and the basic nature of our curricula, it ain't gonna count for shit.

Re:Looking in the wrong places (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321003)

You don't need to adopt the asian cram school model. The Finns get better results with far less child abuse. Heck US suburban schools do as well as any schools in the world.

It's all about the total environment.

Re:Looking in the wrong places (3, Informative)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321459)

You don't need to adopt the asian cram school model. The Finns get better results with far less child abuse.

What child abuse? What is it with this stereotype that the Japanese inflict this barbaric treatment on their students? I've been in Japan, and I haven't seen none of it. You got crazy parents that keep their kids up till the wee hours doing homework, but you have that everywhere. The key difference between Japan and the US is that:

1. Japanese kids go to school more days during the year. Their school day is similar in lengths to ours.

2. Kids aren't allowed to pass grades just so that they don't feel bad. If a kid is having learning problems, special care is taken for them. It's not like us that allow kids to finish HS without knowing how to read or write (literally.)

3. Whether you are working class or upper class, your kid is guaranteed to get decent public education.

4. Teachers are respected.

5. Kids clean their class room (oh no, the horror, the abuse!!!!!)

6. Kids are expected to make up their minds whether they go to college or vocational training (and tailor their HS education accordingly.) No much different from the German model. Man, on my last trip seeing my in-laws a month ago, one of the main blockbuster movies in Japan is one about the construction and launch of the Hayabusa satellite. THAT IS ONE OF THEIR BLOCKBUSTERS!. That tells you everything about the difference between their view of education and ours.

Heck US suburban schools do as well as any schools in the world.

If that gives you comfort, and if that gives comfort to people at large, we are fucked. It doesn't mean anything if you have large swats of working class/ethnic inner cities with schools that are flat lining. Having a few suburban schools that excel means shit. Having schools that, regardless of income class or location, provide decent education on a consistent basis (as the Japanese and Finns do), that's what matters.

It's all about the total environment.

Which Japanese (and Finns) provide... and which we do not. I still want to hear about this (hopefully first hand) account about this so-called child abuse in the Asian cram school model.

To be honest, I don't care if our country adopts (or adapts from) a Japanese or Finn model. Whatever works. But I have a problem with people talking shit about a country, perpetuating stereotypes. Saying that the Japanese use or inflict child abuse to get their kids educated It is no different from the extremist Mullah in a Madrassa saying that all Western women are prostitutes, or saying that all Black people steal or all White people are racist or all Latinas get pregnant by the age of 15. It is a stereotype. It is false. It is dumb. It is bullshit. It has no room in a serious discussion about education.

Re:Looking in the wrong places (2)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321079)

The culture of this country does not appreciate education, and the idea of studying as hard as South Koreans or Japanese is seen as if it were child abuse or something like that.

Considering their suicide rate among high school students is the highest in the world, it's borderline. Sending your kid to after school studies until 8PM just to reinforce what amounts to rote memorization of facts without much in the way of abstract or critical thinking isn't exactly the way to solve our education problems.

There's a difference between a history class spouting off dates, names, and places and a history class asking you why a certain person acted a certain way on that date in history, or what its impact was.

Perhaps one of the things we should do, instead, is start paying sports stars, movie stars and financial fucker-uppers less and paying the people who truly make the country's economy tick more.

Re:Looking in the wrong places (2)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321325)

The culture of this country does not appreciate education, and the idea of studying as hard as South Koreans or Japanese is seen as if it were child abuse or something like that.

Considering their suicide rate among high school students is the highest in the world, it's borderline.

I've been in Japan, and I have not seen the so-called abuse that people so much cry about. Yes, there is a significant number of suicides in Japan compared to other countries, but to attribute it to so-called barbaric forms of education is ignorance to say the least. It is not so much that kids study more hours a day, but that they go to school more days during a year. That is all. You have crazy parents who send kids till 8PM, but so do we have here.

What they do not have over there is the habit of letting people graduate without knowing their shit (which is what we do here.) Not to mention that kids over there have much better educational exposure through media than here. Hobbies are supported, and kids from an early age are expected to keep a diary as part of their education (that act alone increases a kid's exposure to meaningful writing.)

The suicide rates in Japan are multi-varied. Education is not one factor.

Sending your kid to after school studies until 8PM just to reinforce what amounts to rote memorization of facts without much in the way of abstract or critical thinking isn't exactly the way to solve our education problems.

That sentence right there has as much truth as alligators in the sewer. Kids in Japan don't go to school studies till 8PM. Get your facts straight buddy.

There's a difference between a history class spouting off dates, names, and places and a history class asking you why a certain person acted a certain way on that date in history, or what its impact was.

And what does this has to do with education in Japan? Have you ever been there? Ever seen the curriculum? Ever seen the students?

Perhaps one of the things we should do, instead, is start paying sports stars, movie stars and financial fucker-uppers less and paying the people who truly make the country's economy tick more.

This I agree with you.

More of the same is not the answer (2)

Okian Warrior (537106) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321299)

This isn't a game or something that is fixed by simply throwing money at. It is a social problem first and foremost. The culture of this country does not appreciate education, and the idea of studying as hard as South Koreans or Japanese is seen as if it were child abuse or something like that.

>SNIP<

Do that and in a generation you'll see a change, all without throwing the coffers out of the window and without looking for the next e-silver bullet.

Wow, it's a good thing you're here and reading this! It sounds like you have this all figured out!

Increasing the number of hours, having children stand when the teacher enters and leaves the room, de-emphasizing college in favor of vocational training - all of that makes perfect sense!

It's almost like, dare I say it, you've got the answers in hand! All of your suggestions strike at the very heart of why education sucks in this country - have you contacted Peter yet? You should, you know...

Three things, though.

Firstly, children are naturally learners. Given the chance, they will drink from the fountain of information for as much as they can hold, and then come back for more the next day. Anyone who has raised children knows this - they are insatiably curious and inventive and experimental.

Secondly, learning is inherently fun and rewarding. This is an evolutionary survival trait, and is the reason for point #1 above. It takes a decade or more of forced, spoon-fed boredom before they come to associate learning with pain.

Thirdly, today we know a whole lot more about the psychology and physiology of learning than we did when the school system was first implemented. For example, do you know why the standard courses include trigonometry and not, for example, probability? Trig is important, but Prob is much more useful in daily life.

Your points are just a rehash of the authoritarian view commonly held by the American school system. It amounts to nothing more than insanity: since the techniques aren't working, let's do them even more!

The post, and Peter in particular, is looking for alternatives to the current system, not more of the same. It expresses the opinion that maybe there are ways that are better than what we are using.

More of the same won't solve anything. STFU.

Re:Looking in the wrong places (2)

Woogiemonger (628172) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321451)

I'm going to mention the Finns like the other guy who replied, but I'm also going to point out that they don't merely just "respect" and "compensate" teachers better. It might be the underlying cause, but being a teacher in Finland has higher REQUIREMENTS. I certainly feel I had an unrewarding experience in the US education system, and I think that goes with the mentality "Those who can't do... teach."... but putting knowledge of the subject matter they teach aside, I think there's something to be said for knowledge of how to teach. In the days we live in, with the technological means and needs to research alternative education models, I think teachers should be capable and trained to actively participate and help direct this research. I 100% believe that my teachers at least through high school could have easily been substituted by a book and an exam proctor. I'm sure it's different for others, but if you're not able to offer me personally some real value above that, I don't want you hired to be my babysitter.

stop the use of tests (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320887)

A simple, one-three hour test can only quantify certain types of ability. Academia, how ever, use these tests to measure almost every type of ability...and that is incorrect. It HAS to be incorrect, because of the broad nature of human knowledge.

I'm not saying we need to devise ways to make education painless. Life isn't painless, and neither should be education. But, devising accurate ways to measure a student's ability should decrease students' perceptions that tests, and therefore education, aren't worth the hassle.

Re:stop the use of tests (1)

obi1one (524241) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320973)

But isnt that irrelevant when (at least a large part of) the issue is that the US is consistently placing low in exams when compared to other countries? If the students take the same exams, and US students suck while students in other countries do well, the fact that exams arent a perfect way of measuring all types of ability doesnt seem that important. If you are talking about the focus on exam scores within the school system, still, if we are overly focused on exams we should be doing overly well on the exams and failing to develop other skills, but we are sucking at the exams.

Re:stop the use of tests (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321169)

But isnt that irrelevant when (at least a large part of) the issue is that the US is consistently placing low in exams when compared to other countries?

If tests are invalid or inappropriately depended upon, then the standardized tests used to contrast/compare countries' students are just possibly invalid, as well.

Take the GRE, for instance. Some people do nothing but study for the GRE FOR YEARS. Are their scores going to be better, on average, than the average student's? Yes...but their list of abilities might start and end with "getting a good score on the GRE".

less capitalism. less Evita Foundation bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39320893)

Why become educated when your only future is to compete with others in an increasingly adversarial society where the aim is to beat everyone else? Why play a game in which the best way to win is to subjugate a people and use them to make you rich and powerful?

The problem is capitalism: the idea that people should fight each other rather than work together. And as things have moved further to the right in the last 30 years, everything has got worse. Yet still we're surrounded by the foolish and the short-term reward seekers who whine that we're not far enough to the right.

Re:less capitalism. less Evita Foundation bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321001)

Hear hear! The academics who actually research, develop and produce advancements for society couldn't give a hoot about making money - they just love their subject. They are disillusioned by an almost exclusively materialistic nation which has no sense of long term planning or advancement. Young scientists and mathematicians at best become disillusioned and stop bothering to study; at worst they go into finance. Throwing more money at education will just make things worse - we don't lack money, we lack reason.

Just 2 ideas (1)

folstaff (853243) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320913)

1: Education needs the parents back in charge. Yes, that means some bad decisions, but it will have more people involved with the education of their own children. As a parent of a 4th grader, I can tell you I am all but excluded from a lot of the decisions that get made for him at school.Too much money is being spent in administration of the school system, and that takes precious resources away from the teachers themselves. Parents can be counted on to do more for their children. We are waiting for the opportunity.

2: Technology could make schools more interactive for the purpose of easing the burden on teachers. Teachers don't need home rooms, students do. Then you only have to move around teachers to the virtual desk they have in the system. The result is less time in the halls for the students, and more time in a familiar place.

Fix the home, fix education (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320947)

The problem is not that our education system is broken. The problem is that the students don't get the education reinforced outside of school. Either because of their friends, that their parents aren't at home, or their parents just don't care, these students are being told-through words and actions-that they don't need an education, or getting an education is too hard, or that its stupid. They can make more money playing sports, or dealing drugs, or robbing houses, or whatever. They are being told this by their family, their friends, their peers, and their society/culture. It doesn't matter how you change the system, how much money you throw at it, because the problem does not lie within the system. It exists outside of it.

Recreate the AI teacher from Hg Wells Time Machine (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320965)

Back in 2002, I was doing some theorizing on True Artificial Intelligence, and one of the applications I realized is that it'd make a perfect teacher. But more importantly, I realized we could create a computerized teaching system without having achieved AI. Lets start:

1) Digitize all education books saying copyright is holding us back. Suddenly you have about a million dollars in worth of ebooks for every student at the cost of 100 dollars for an ebook reader or laptop. This in itself would be an education revolution. Never before could we store or transport so much information in such a compact and cheap device.

2) Have K-college teachers teach their course to empty classrooms with a video recorder. You'd have about 10+ redundant lectures on the same stuff. Kids can then watch these lectures in their own homes.

3) Important "Tutors"- Have chat rooms or live QA with tutors on duty. This way when a kid wants to ask a question he can get it answered promptly. These would be like call centers with qualified teachers on duty.

4) Then the spice comes when you introduce software that teaches them through trial and error. I fondly remember learning how to count,add,multiply from TI-99 computer. The advantage that little piece of software gave me in math, allowed me to crush through to some of the highest levels in math an undergrad can take.

Now you can't count on the government to ditch copyright so I think the only way this will happen is through self sacrificial IP donations and rewriting books, open source K-12, and you can revolutionize education so everyone even in the third world can get an education if they want to put forth the effort. I think education and hunger are the two problems we can solve in this generation. Lets do it.

I think that the Traditional College system is not (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320975)

I think that the Traditional College system is not the best fit for lot’s of jobs and there are better ways to learn and to show that you have skills.

Harvard Study: Too Much Emphasis On College Education?
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2011/0202/Does-everyone-need-a-college-degree-Maybe-not-says-Harvard-study [csmonitor.com]

http://hotair.com/archives/2011/02/02/harvard-study-hey-maybe-were-placing-too-much-emphasis-on-a-college-education/ [hotair.com]
“It would be fine if we had an alternative system [for students who don’t get college degrees], but we’re virtually unique among industrialized countries in terms of not having another system and relying so heavily on higher education,” says Robert Schwartz, who heads the Pathways to Prosperity project at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
Emphasizing college as the only path may actually cause some students – who are bored in class but could enjoy learning that’s more entwined with the workplace – to drop out, he adds. “If the image [of college] is more years of just sitting in classrooms, that’s not very persuasive.”
The United States can learn from other countries, particularly in northern Europe, Professor Schwartz says. In Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland, for instance, between 40 and 70 percent of high-schoolers opt for programs that combine classroom and workplace learning, many of them involving apprenticeships. These pathways result in a “qualification” that has real currency in the labor market”

“It would be fine if we had an alternative system [for students who don’t get college degrees], but we’re virtually unique among industrialized countries in terms of not having another system and relying so heavily on higher education,” says Robert Schwartz, who heads the Pathways to Prosperity project at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
Emphasizing college as the only path may actually cause some students – who are bored in class but could enjoy learning that’s more entwined with the workplace – to drop out, he adds. “If the image [of college] is more years of just sitting in classrooms, that’s not very persuasive.”
The United States can learn from other countries, particularly in northern Europe, Professor Schwartz says. In Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland, for instance, between 40 and 70 percent of high-schoolers opt for programs that combine classroom and workplace learning, many of them involving apprenticeships. These pathways result in a “qualification” that has real currency in the labor market”

What is education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39320989)

The biggest issue of all, is to come forward with a definition about what quality education is about. It can vary widely from culture to culture and, even within the same culture from time to time, say, across decades. Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia article begins with: "Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next.". Just putting such information together is a challenge on its own. Redistributing and delivering it at young people's minds, is another. In between, you have lot's of legitimate objection about what "knowledge, skills, customs and values" really are.

What the prize could really target would rather be knowledge and skills and, yes, games could deliver either in a fantastic way. Anybody else around here who got a serious kickstart in organic and inorganic chemistry via a computer quiz game? Could a game Spindizzy teach logic except for controlling the joystick?

"Education" worked in the past. (1)

dtmancom (925636) | more than 2 years ago | (#39320997)

The education system in this country worked fine in the past. Why is it such a boggle to look at how things used to be done, observe what has changed, analyze it, and determine when things started going wrong? This solution is so obvious that it seems only an (capital-I) Intellectual could possibly not see it.

Re:"Education" worked in the past. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321059)

Seeing as the Federal Department of Education started in 1979, which is about the beginning of the decline of education in the US, I would like to suggest that is the start of your problems. Just remove the department from the federal government and then we will have 50 states doing different things and at least a couple of them will have better results that can be copied.

Ever notice that everything the federal government "fixes" gets worse? War on poverty, more poor than ever. War on drugs, more drugs than ever. War on obesity, more fat people. Department of education, education goes down. Department of energy, foreign oil dependence goes up.

lack of Vocational and to much college is doing it (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321061)

lack of Vocational and to much college is doing it now if they had a good Vocational / tech system to take the not college material people and the not college material (job trading / skills) on to there own track then that can free up the systems for the people and skills who are college material. Better then jamming them all though the same system.

fix the anti-science views of the US population... (1)

neurocutie (677249) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321013)

A big part of the problem with education in the US is a symptom of the anti-science, anti-education views of a significant segment of the population. Once the entire population is convinced that only through a re-investment in science and math will the US remain competitive in the global economy -- you can bet the Chinese have understood this very well.

This then also means pour lots of funds into science and technology R&D. (Its so hard to get grants now that it is turning many students away...) Now will make it easier to get jobs in STEM, which will drive the imperative for students to get a better STEM education, which will drive improvements in schools for STEM. And the parent will be onboard as they will now all believe the imperative for their children and the country's welfare and economy, that everything is geared toward excellence in STEM.

How to convince the average American that STEM is of the highest priority? Difficult, but it should be something quite forceful, probably Darwinian (i.e. make it painfully obvious that survive depends on it). The US population has been lulled into a false sense of security that the US will always be on top and that Americans have the "freedom" to do as they choose and they will be okay regardless of what they choose. That part of the "American Dream" has to be torn down -- because it is untrue. It is not okay to believe in views that are contrary to science and still expect the future to turn out well.

nice dream, huh...

Something Given has no value... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321027)

Hire Mr. Rychek as teacher from Starship Troopers!

Make all kids earn their education by keeping their skool clean.

You can't "fix" education without fixing parenting (1)

davecason (598777) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321029)

I heard this on the radio last week:
http://www.npr.org/2012/03/05/147980299/tough-love-reading-laws-target-third-graders" [npr.org]

They were debating should they spend $10,000 to have a child repeat the 3rd grade because they can't read at grade level OR pass them on to 4th grade and spend $10,000 on tutoring for two years. So flunk a child, and punish the child with shame OR pass the child, and punish the child with an unrealistic sense of accomplishment. Both ideas punish the taxpayer. If a child cannot read by that age, in my very humble opinion, we should be looking to punish the parent.

Education begins at home. That is where it needs to be fixed. A child is like an investment: if you invest nothing you should expect to get nothing. If this debate is about developing a recipe for success, let's try to stay away from the topics of public education and unions and focus on those recipes. My recipe includes having lots of books and spending lots of time reading them to my children.

Good teachers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321109)

That's all that's needed. Not people who know everything about the subject, but people who can pass that knowledge onto the students. People who can teach.

I can name that tune is 4 steps. (1)

bitflippant (2198664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321113)

1. lower the Teacher to kid ratio to less than 20:1 so each child that needs the extra one on one attention from the teacher receives it. 2. Make sure that teacher providing the attention is well paid and well educated themselves to deal with different learning models 3. restart and make mandatory the non traditional activities that stimulate the mind & body outside of education like art, music & drama 4. a computer built into every school desk and a computer issued for home use to every single child, stripped bare of extras and used for educational purposes only.

My View. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321141)

Up to age 8 or so. Focus on reading comprehension and writing well, sprinkle with basic math skills. Lots of paper very little computer stuff. flash cards, writing, etc. Focus your attention here, extremely low student to teacher ratio for these important years. Lots of games and fun to keep the young ones happy. For the older students. 1. Test that basics are up-to par. 2. Help students who haven't gotten the basic down until they pass basics tests. 3. Computer based self paced learning with as much labs as possible. You'll need some teachers to help students when they struggle. Also lots of labs. Teachers don't need be super qualified but need a good understanding of their specialty field. 4. Don't let students progress who haven't passed the steps below. No biology without proving good basic science understanding. Allow students to graduate early. 5. Allow young people to get jobs but make sure to give the opportunity to return to study, aka if 16 year olders don't want to learn advanced math don't make them, etc. But if they want get HS diploma before 30 let them come back for free. 6. Don't tolerate cheating from anyone. Also fund schools based on number of students only. Don't give rewards for good schools or extra help to bad school this create more problems then it solves. 6. Fire and replace staff at failing schools.You can then give funding boost for a few years to bring schools up to par only after get rid of the problem.

Education - but for parents and govt busybodies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321145)

Spend the money convincing parents and govt busybodies that education is intensely personal and each child will, no matter how much effort is spent on them, achieve only to their own maximum potential. There is a huge difference between the top 10% and bottom 10% in academic achievement, but right now the big thing seems to be to force all kids to learn exactly the same amount and then measure the schools on how closely they come to making all students perform to a mythical average standard.

Nothing could be more harmful to our kids.

Above average kids need an extra challenge, and those kids with the potential for some seriously high-end education should not be held back in public schools, and their parents should not have to resort to putting their kids into expensive private schools. Likewise, kids who are at the lower end of academic potential should not be made to feel inadequate if despite all their hard work, they do not achieve to the standards set. Forcing a standard that all kids can achieve is simply enforcing mediocrity on our children.

Instead, an approach similar to the one I first saw in my own high school ought to be considered as a model for all public schools. My school had a 4-track system. The primary tier was for the 60% or so students who were "average". These courses challenged these students without either boring or embarassing them, and the classes were structured to minimize the effects of the "average" disruptive student as well. The next track had about 20% of the students, those who were either a bit above average in capabilities or who simply possessed a better focus for the school environment. Classroom disruptions were almost non-existent mostly because students who disrupted these classes were placed back in the primary track. The next track was for those 10% students who were clearly above average, and who consistently performed well with their grades, comprehension, and in various types of tests. There were ZERO disruptions in these classes, and students who qualified for these classes (mostly through testing and observation) loved the extra challenge. The final 10% track was for students who were getting no benefit from the normal classes, for various reasons. Some simply could not sit still through a class, some simply progressed slowly. These students were taught in much smaller classes by highly talented teachers (often the ones teaching the "top" track classes) and their education focused on things that could help them succeed later in life.

One thing was VERY clear in all of the classes... Nobody was given a free ride, and the teachers and faculty did not say or imply that failing to go to college was somehow a failure to succeed in life. All students were encouraged to apply to college if they wanted, and some of the classes in all tracks, especially in the junior and senior years, were targeted specifically at preparation for college entrance. But the career counselors presented both college and direct entry job prospects after high school with equal respect. Because they realized that some students simply wouldn't benefit from college and might even be badly harmed by an unsuccessful college attempt. This is why the school included vocational elective courses for everyone.

So my suggestion is to give the $10 million to someone who can figure out how to convince the meddling govt busybodies to get their fingers out of public schools, and let the schools set their own priorities and standards based on the student populations they have. Because each student is going to have different capabilities and trying to force them all into one single mold, or even trying to prepare ALL of them for college, is pretty destructive to almost every student including both high and low achievers.

Holodeck (1)

AeiwiMaster (20560) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321159)

What we need is a holodeck.
Where we can simulate every posible learning experience.

can we apply agile? (0)

fmobus (831767) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321187)

Having recently joined a major world-wide IT company that strongly uses and defends agile methods for development projects, I got my self thinking: what if we try to apply agile concepts for the educational scenario?

For instance, my team does daily stand-up meetings, where each member of the team talks about whatever tasks he did for the project in the last 24 hours, pointing out difficulties that could warrant help from others; in education, we could have multiple students assigned different tasks, and have they quickly elaborate on what have they learned and what are they struggling with, so that the other students and the teacher may help him. We could also copy the idea of pair programming, and have students pair up randomly to complete their tasks on a daily basis, so as to foster cooperation and communication skills.

Sure, we would still need some measure of actual lecture being given by the teacher/professor, but more focus should be given on teaching students to build their knowledge by their own research. I think that most of the time the teacher should be going rounds around the class to help students and assess their progress. Alike agile, everything should be continuously tested; instead of big, stressful exams every two months or so, students should be able to demonstrate their acquired knowledge - both orally and in written - on daily basis.

All of this may sound a bit alike constructivist method, but I want to avoid that road; in my opinion, constructivism's exaggerated leniency/freedom is a recipe for disaster; my approach would have the teacher in a stronger guidance position (such as a project manager), closely watching the group's performance and enforcing a pace. The concept of a student failing should still exist, and should actually be much more common than currently, making it less traumatic; as in agile, we have to fail fast: advancement cycles could be MUCH shorter (think a fortnight), and a failing student should be brought to some reinforcement class on the specific subject he is behind.

Re:can we apply agile? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321389)

There are people out there trying to apply agile to education, but traditional methods are often legally ingrained to the point where the experiment is so limited that you can't find out whether or not it could actually be effective.

cater to the different learning styles (1)

FunkDup (995643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321189)

There are different types of learning styles [wikipedia.org] I personally suffered in the rigid old-style learning environment I was in for my school life. IMHO making sure the right types of learners are taught together by the right teacher and processes is critical to each student student getting the maximum possible benefit.

I also think it's important to make learning environments as flexible as possible. Allowing students to broadly specialize as early as possible is good for students and for overall productivity. I'm thinking of highly specialized online components mixed in with more traditional classes.

Get rid of degrees in education (1)

timholman (71886) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321203)

Well, if I had a magic wand to wave, I'd abolish every College of Education at every university in the U.S.A, and require that all teachers have degrees in the subjects that they teach (e.g. mathematics, history, physics, etc.).

Degrees in education boomed beginning in the late 50's to early 60's, which happens to correspond very nicely with the start of the decline in K-12 education. Based on my own observation of many B.S.Ed. graduates, I believe there's a great deal of causation behind that correlation.

Hiring teachers on the basis of "knowing how to teach" has been about as successful as hiring managers on the basis of "knowing how to manage". The consequences have been even worse - a badly run company can be turned around by new management, but badly-educated children are much, much harder to fix.

Edutainment (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321235)

I find it disappointing how often people keep trying to duct tape a textbook and a video game together. It inevitably ends up the worst of both: a boring game with some shallow facts littered around.

Compare this to the Exploratorium: lots of things set up that are perfectly fun to play with in their own right, and only a minimal amount of writeup and lecture surrounding them in a nonimposing way... But all of them intriguing in a way that makes you stop and think: "wait... How does that WORK?". Once that moment strikes, there is absolutely nothing that can keep a kid from wandering around the machine a dozen times, pulling the lever and watching carefully to see the result, sometimes given a hint by someone wandering by, until they figure it out.

My idea of the best education ever is to just keep tantalizing kids with something neat that's suited to their level to get their curiosity going, then just keep giving them the resources they need to learn about it.

My two cents (2)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321335)

My first suggestion would be to go back over the work of those who have studied this problem in depth. Recommended reading: Maria Montessori, Ivan Illich, Rudolph Steiner (That last one is a bit fruity but there are still some interesting ideas in it).

Having done that myself to a limited degree, I can identify numerous areas where improvement is possible. Firstly I think the concept that you learn X at age Y should be ditched. If you don't know how to read at age 5Y you should still be able to use the standard education system, as most information in modern society is less prevalent than reading, and there should be nothing stopping me from learning high school geography for example at 29, and nothing forcing me to learn it at 16. Which brings me to the second area, and in my mind the most important: No one should be forced to learn anything, learning should be self directed and interest based. This is where people often jump down my throat and say 'that would never work'. Ivan Illich has many strong arguments for this idea, but I usually go the route of disputing the objections. Axioms: people dont like learning, learning is necessary. Therfore: people must be forced to learn. The problem is axiom 1. People love learning, all animals do, it is called play. This is an artificial distinction in my opinion as play and education were basically synonymous for millions of years, until the education system was invented. If you take an average child before school age, they are generally full of question, always exploring and testing. Then you send them to school. Let's just say that it is not inconceivable that with a better education system people might enjoy learning. They might continue to learn throughout life and without the need for government funding or attendance legislation. The goal of learning should be to teach the value of learning. Another area that could be improved, and the primary one being discussed by other posts in this thread, is the relationship between teachers and education, in that it is clearly dysfunctional in the current system. All of us at one time or another have had teachers that made us worse at the subject they taught. This is not the teachers' fault alone, there are circumstances such as their own education, their working conditions, the attitudes of parents, students and other staff, personal life, health, etc. This is a failure of the system. The avenue I would pursue in rectifying this would be to look at reducing the role of teachers in the system. I am not suggesting their replacement by technology, whilst this seems attractive on the surface, it is severely limited and could even be counter-productive in many cases. I would look more in the direction of students teaching each other. Developing networks of people with similar interests and levels of understanding, and moving the role of teacher to a more passive one. Teachers should be there to oversee the learning, and make sure the correct teaching is being presented and that misconceptions/mistakes don't get caught up in the program. They should also be there as an expert, to demonstrate procedures and answer questions. The idea that the teacher has to regulate every step of the learning process is one of the reasons their role is currently not working. There are many more areas that need work and new ideas, but this is a post on slashdot, not a novel. Oh and Please don't go the addictive games route. If a game has to be addictive to get played then it has no value, if it had value it would not need to be addictive. Games as education is a great idea in general, just remove the word addictive from the sentence.

Stop wasting money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321369)

Here's an idea -- stop wasting money on students who can't learn anything. Vocational training is an answer.

Misguided effort (1)

slasho81 (455509) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321371)

Education can't be fixed by an idea. Education is a cultural, social, and economic "problem".

Psychological tricks like gamifying the system won't change a culture which doesn't encourage learning and sometimes actively discourages it. A Khan Academy won't help students who don't feel at ease at home because their family is riddled with stress and hostility. A Khan Academy won't help a kid who doesn't have access to a personal computer and internet. "But everyone has access to the internet nowadays or will have one real soon, right?" Not even close.

You can't make the teacher a high status vocation as a matter of policy. You can't make teachers respectable authority figures overnight. You can't change the reputation of an education system in the eyes of employers just like that. You can't end racism and discrimination against students with a simple solution. You can't magically eliminate the helplessness and despair of students who know that no matter what they'll do, their lives will turn to shit.

Education is a giant system embedded in society. Innovations are welcomed, but only fools think it can be fixed. If the culture and the society and the economy don't change for the better, the most you can do is patch the education system.

Tactile Learning (1)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321399)

We're monkeys programmed to learn by interacting with things. Any learning system that stuff kids in a classroom 7-10 hours a day, behind a desk staring at books is doomed to failure.

It's not one problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321409)

It's not like there's one problem, and therefore only one solution. A lot of things need to be changed. Improvement in any of them is progress.

Answer (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321437)

Stop trying to "fix" it because every time you do, you just end up fucking it up even more.

* Get rid of bullying * (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321453)

if we get ride of bullying and make learning and being smart cool the education of our youth will follow

Teachers and school's are NOT the problem. (1)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321455)

The problem are parents! Plain and simple, you don't have to debate it.

You either make the time and are involved in your child's education process are you are not.

If you don;t involve yourself and teach them that education is valuable from the beginning you are a failure as a parent.

Its just that simple.

what a coincidence? (2)

swframe (646356) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321463)

There is an earlier /. article today on a new way to think about learning. http://developers.slashdot.org/story/12/03/11/1927219/a-better-way-to-program [slashdot.org] It would be great if there were interactive educational applications like the ones that Bret Victor talks about.

This article is also very interesting. http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/01/everything-about-learning/ [wired.com] It points out that, when we learn we need to focus more on recalling the information. Sites like khanacademy present the information in small chunks that are easy to understand but if the student doesn't practice recalling the information, then she/he is at a disadvantage.

Finally, there is this video by Sir Ken Robinson which talks about the issues pretty well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&feature=player_embedded# [youtube.com] !

Teacher Pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39321481)

Increase teacher pay to the point where it's one of the top-paying professions. Then the best minds will compete for teaching jobs and will figure the rest out themselves.

It's not hard, just expensive.

Already won: Khan Academy (2)

LittleRedStar (723170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39321499)

I find it amazing that Khan Academy has only been mentioned twice, once dismissively. The idea of flipping the classroom is a paradigm shift and puts more responsibility on the parent(s) to ensure their child is taking their lessons.
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