02 February 2008

Futurist Alvin Toffler on the Government School System: Shut It Down!

Famous author and futurist Alvin Toffler has weighed in on the issue of failed and corrupt government schools: he says to shut them down! Here is an interview with Toffler:
You've been writing about our educational system for decades. What's the most pressing need in public education right now?

Shut down the public education system.

That's pretty radical.

I'm roughly quoting Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who said, "We don't need to reform the system; we need to replace the system."

Why not just readjust what we have in place now? Do we really need to start from the ground up?

We should be thinking from the ground up. That's different from changing everything. However, we first have to understand how we got the education system that we now have. Teachers are wonderful, and there are hundreds of thousands of them who are creative and terrific, but they are operating in a system that is completely out of time. It is a system designed to produce industrial workers....

...How does that system fit into a world where assembly lines have gone away?

It doesn't. The public school system is designed to produce a workforce for an economy that will not be there. And therefore, with all the best intentions in the world, we're stealing the kids' future....

...You're talking about customizing the educational experience.

Exactly. Any form of diversity that we can introduce into the schools is a plus. Today, we have a big controversy about all the charter schools that are springing up. The school system people hate them because they're taking money from them. I say we should radically multiply charter schools, because they begin to provide a degree of diversity in the system that has not been present. Diversify the system....

...Here's a complaint you often hear: We spend a lot of money on education, so why isn't all that money having a better result?

It's because we're doing the same thing over and over again. We're holding 40 or 50 million kids prisoner for x hours a week. And the teacher is given a set of rules as to what you're going to say to the students, how you're going to treat them, what you want the output to be, and let no child be left behind. But there's a very narrow set of outcomes. I think you have to open the system to new ideas....

....Integrate the curricula[?]

Yeah -- the culture, the technology, all these things.

Like real life[?]

Like real life, yes! And, like in real life, there is an enormous, enormous bank of knowledge in the community that we can tap into. So, why shouldn't a kid who's interested in mechanical things or engines or technology meet people from the community who do that kind of stuff, and who are excited about what they are doing and where it's going?...

...Let's have a little exercise. Walk me through this school you'd create. What do the classrooms look like? What are the class sizes? What are the hours?

It's open twenty-four hours a day. Different kids arrive at different times. They don't all come at the same time, like an army. They don't just ring the bells at the same time. They're different kids. They have different potentials. Now, in practice, we're not going to be able to get down to the micro level with all of this, I grant you, but in fact, I would be running a twenty-four-hour school, I would have nonteachers working with teachers in that school, I would have the kids coming and going at different times that make sense for them.
More at Edutopia

Readers of Al Fin will find much in Toffler's ideas that sounds familiar. Education in N. America is easily in the top 5 problems--maybe the top 2. If you listen to "solutions" from Clinton, Obama, McCain, Huckaby, etc. you are not going to hear solid answers. Those are the politicians who are liked by the status quo--the current educational establishment. You would only change the schools over their dead bodies.

More on this topic later.

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Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

I suspect that the political will to shut down the public system will only come when a majority or large fraction of families have left it. Right now there is still an impression that alternatives are only for parents who want to avoid having their kids exposed to sex-ed and evolution or rich people who want the prestige of an expensive private school. They may know that the system is broken but see the only practical alternative to a broken education system as no education and they prefer the broken system in the hope that their kid will be able to navigate the ruins.

Only when such a large number of their friends and neighbors are using some alternative that they can be assured that individual parents don't need to be rich, educational experts or willing to accept a fake education for their kids to leave the public system will the end come.

Saturday, 02 February, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Government schools were designed for the 18th and 19th centuries. Vested interests in the government, teachers unions, and the educational / industrial complex prevent schools from being reformed and modernised.

The children's best interests could only be protected by parents, who are not a unified force by any means.

You should check out Bruce Hall's postings on converting high schools to a university model.

There are a lot of good ideas floating around, but the opposition is so powerful that only a determined and strong-minded reform movement will be able to budge the vested interests.

Monday, 04 February, 2008  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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