School Reloaded

This article takes off from the previous one exploring the natural rights of children that are abused casually. So here, I am looking at schools. Let me say upfront that I am not “designing an overhaul” and I don’t believe I should. Public services should always be designed by consensus, hopefully with some input or observation of children.

The following isn’t intended to be a working model of education, but a set of goals that should be incorporated into planning one, if at all we ever get around to making so much effort when kids are “perfectly fine” in their tidy boxes. I use this space to share ideas that occur to me. I hope many minds will join in in precious contribution.

  1. The duration. Cut it to a third. Currently, we have three to four years of pre-school, kindergarten, etc before school, plus the ten actual years of school. That’s too much. If you want kids ready for college at fifteen, put them in school by ten, get them out by fourteen and give them a year’s break before further organized study. This has the added bonus of tripling the national educational capacity instantly. More on this later.
  2. Get rid of compulsions. If the school thinks something is important, and the child doesn’t, its time to get real, and like real life, negotiate. And suck it up and accept that things don’t always go our way if the child still doesn’t agree. In other words, they are people.
  3. Memorizing must be so minimized, that if it can be noticed, its too much. Instead, teach kids how to find out. How to reference knowledge, how to rig up their own research, how to question the knowledge and test it before accepting or not. How to disagree, without inhibition.
  4. Banish syllabus and subjects. Have classrooms loosely defined by what is happening in them and let the children be free to use them or not.
  5. Get totally rid of this good and bad. If you have bad students, please remove them from school and let them join whatever they are good at – even if it is watching TV all day. They have one life and don’t deserve to suffer our hang ups.
  6. Knowledge must not be seggregated. A snowflake being beautiful, cold, inspiring poetry, geometrically interesting….. should not be unrelated. This cannot be designed. You will have to get rid of subjects and dive into whatever the kids seem interested in. Which brings me to….
  7. Teachers should be facilitators. Once we get rid of the idea of limited information, the idea of a teacher becomes impossible to provide. No one can know everything about everything. Thus, the teachers must have skills that get the knowledge flowing rather than delivering the final word on something.
  8. Drop the idea that kids did “nothing”. Nothing is what brainwashed adults do. A quiet kid has gears turning in his head, a mischiefmaker is figuring out out of the box ideas that no one thought of, so that he can do his mischief. There is absolutely no reason to plan every inch of the time and space a child spends in the learning center. On the other hand, there is every need to offer a variety of things around what is enjoyed or considered interesting.
  9. Which brings me to… don’t limit learning. If your classrooms are by subject, there is absolutely no reason why people can’t take life memberships and/or to multiple schools or walk into a government school at whim. If they don’t have to attend everyday, they can, you know? What more perfect thing on a boring afternoon than to discover something astonishing? To hop across and check out what’s “happening”? Or, to continue on to their specialized colleges, but feel free to supplement it with more holistic learning in the center? It would be great for the kids to have diversity in learning partners. More real, more practical. If something specific doesn’t support it, that can always be protected.
  10. You understand of course, that from tiny, regimented, stingy parcels of learning, I’m talking of throwing the world open to kids. Of helping them learn whatever they want, as far as possible. No compulsory subjects, no lectures, unless the teacher is gung ho about something and the kids find it interesting enough to not walk out.
  11. There is absolutely no reason why basic education can’t prepare one for a future in agriculture or hairdressing, if it truly offers freedom of learning. That is the whole idea of basic, you know? Education now is ridiculous. The foundation for never finding out their real passions, because they are supposed to do all kinds of things and anyway, its highly likely that what you want to do cannot be described as one out of eight subjects – and thus kids actually have no idea what to do after their board exams. If this nonsense were working, by the time they hit the age of college, children would have had a fair grip on what it was they wanted to do, instead of saying, “Oh, if I get good marks, I’ll take science, or commerce if i can’t do that, or arts if  I get no admission for either.” This horrible predicament of theirs is because they are taught fantasy subjects, which have no reality with what they can envison anyone actually doing. They haven’t actually done anything that gives them an idea of if they want to do it a lot in the future. And no, they never had an ambition for memorization, and if they did, it would be something more spectacular, not something everyone “had to” memorize.
  12. The so called “B.Ed” variety degrees should be replaced by more practical psychology experience and skills of resourcing things. Nothing currently teaches that, so it will have to be designed. The actual learning expertise can come from anything ranging from a bunch of kids taking things apart and finding out for themselves, or a nuclear physicist volunteering an afternoon. Or from the tomes of textbooks of a bygone era to the internet or whatever comes next.
  13. school like this ought to actually be LESS expensive. Resources are really vastly scalable – there is no need to standardize – whatever is available, its unique, and real, and likely influenced by what kids wanted. This money should be not saved, but used to add resources and pay teachers really well. Teachers who become teachers because they couldn’t get better jobs should not be trusted with shaping the future of very precious people.
  14. Exams should be banned at the “end” of schooling. There is no end to learning, and there is absolutely no realistic way of assessing learning. Attempts to do so should be considered an insult to learning itself.
  15. But…. but, how do we put people in college? ENTRANCE EXAMS. If a child WANTS to do something, it makes sense to train for it and pass an exam certifying it. Colleges already have entrance exams. What difference does it make to them if the kids didn’t do other exams before that? Skills considered essential can be tested, and that is that. Let’s stop these anal routines, as though assessments are the whole point of learning.
  16. For jobs, it makes more sense to have entrance exams based on the actual work expected. An accounts job shouldn’t need the same skill set and marksheet as a receptionist, for example, as is the current scenario. Someone interested in numbers can learn really cool things with them and become a far more exceptional accountant than a garden variety “some of everything”, so actually, it is a grounding for far more intense specialization.
  17. It has the added benefit of dignity of labour. If there isn’t an educational norm that you can study commerce and become an executive with 80% marks and a receptionist with 60% marks, there is no shame in choosing what your heart is comfortable with, or becoming a driver or a nuclear scientist. A child choosing to attend school a couple of days a week and focusing more on the garage on the corner because he’s interested in race cars is LEARNING. Will be good initial work for that mechanical engineering entrance exam. If this child is not condemned, he may want to use the learning center to be able to calculate the power of an engine better, or learn the correct spelling of some term the mechanic used. Such things should be seen as apprenticeships rather than wasting time.
  18. I am not saying organize nothing and let kids go wild and be complacent because you don’t have to show any results. There is a difference between nurture and neglect, just as there is between nurture and prison. . Something like this would be more difficult on the teachers, BECAUSE they are supposed to deliver more. The world, instead of ten chapters.
  19. Also not saying that no lectures should be organized. I am saying that they should have a purpose other than ramming an essay into a child’s brain. They should be free for anyone to learn from, not just one group of people doing it whether they want or not. A lecture designed for the sixth grade shouldn’t disallow anyone wanting to attend it, nor should it disallow a sixth grader from leaving, but there will have to be a target audience in designing it, of course.
  20. Obviously, this isn’t something that would work out of the box. For one, even if this idea were adopted, a transition would have to be worked out. This idea would have to be refined further. But that a basic education ought to be good enough to set many people up for basic jobs without having to do anything further exotic. A basic education ought to create a foundation for learning, which can be applied in any sphere of life, and a love for knowledge, which goes beyond proving worth in exams. It ought to give the children enough of a sampling of what happens in different kinds of work so that they have a fair idea of what they really want by the time they hit the age of eligibility for college. And no, you ambitious parents, this shouldn’t be an opportunity to lower the entrance age for college.

Ok, I’ll stop here, because again, the article must go on, but you get the idea. Measuring people, demeaning them, limiting their learning is not necessary at all.

~*~*~ Fun Break ~*~*~

A bubble of pure water without soap added – impossible on earth, because, in zero gravity, the film of water doesn’t collapse under its own weight. Syllabus? Everything from surface tension and gravity to forces shaping objects to the nature of a scientist’s mind or the beauty of bubble itself or how do they design the shuttle so that it doesn’t leak or collapse? A million learning conversation possibilities….. or…. we aren’t in space. Which brand of soap will make best bubbles? Or…. on earth, could zero gravity be “rigged” to make this possible? One interesting thing leads to a lot of thought. Thinking is going to get someone figuring out black holes or the latest laundry detergent patent.

~*~*~Ok, back to the topic~*~*~

This is a vision. An ideal. I share it, but there is little hope in me that the world we have has the guts to face raw learning. However, there are a few suggestions I have, that can be implemented, and MUST be implemented. If you have a child, or are a teacher ethically responsible for the harm of school, or are even more introspective and realize that we are responsible for the wrongs we allow to happen unchallenged, you MUST fight tooth and nail for these.

  1. Asking children to take complaint notes about them by their teachers to their parents should be declared a crime. High quality abuse. Enough humiliation already. Its the teacher being paid to make this teaching thing work, not the child. If s/he cannot handle the child, they have choices. Ideally, beginning with another job, but at the very least calling up the parent her/himself and not bullying a child into carrying demeaning words about themselves between people. Or even good words. A child is not a courier for gossip about itself.
  2. Design engaging and “cool” knowledge sharing. Encourage trying things out, based on the learning theme.
  3. Parent-Teacher meetings, staff meetings, etc must be totally open to whichever child wishes to observe them, possibly they can get permission to address the group if they have something important that they want to share. In any case, they must have the RIGHT to know what are the processes around them.
  4. Memorizing needs silence. Learning needs engagement. Engagement is frequently noisy. Noise must not be discouraged. In fact, I go ahead and say that if a teacher can get a class chattering excitedly, they are learning. Teachers MUST receive training on non-violent communication.
  5. Uniforms should be replaced by dress codes, which should be sufficiently tolerant of the intended age and context. There is no two ways around this. Just imagine this. The boss lining up all the women showing cleavage and telling them to “dress better”. Lawsuits would fly. What makes you think that a child is less bothered by being paraded for having untidy clothes? Trust me, just get rid of this shit. If they join the Army, they’ll figure it out fast enough. If they end up working in a place with such rules, they will be doing it out of choice and for a reason. Don’t just randomly fuck with their dignity like this.

I am, like the earlier article, leaving out the “obvious and accepted wrongs”. Use your brain. If I’m holding things up with such integrity, it goes without saying that children being punished and beaten and so on is out. Just out, unless the teacher is cool with being caned in front of the class for being such an insensitive ass. That’s it.

Note: Rather abrupt, but I don’t have it in me to polish anything. Too heartfelt. Maybe later, so you may want to return to this article in the future, which is  a good idea for any article of mine you like, because I have zero publishing ethics. I change them, update them, and in general keep making them better if something occurs to me. I will also do the italic/bold thing, so that quick scanners get all the importantest words at least. Later. Now, I must stay with this feeling of talked out. When I wrote A new look at child abuse, I had planned it as a two article thing. The second article to contain a vision and possibilities. After the article finally wrote itself, and I read it a few times, I realized that it was too long. And it still didn’t allow me the space I needed without risking people running away just at the length of the page. After all, an idea unspread is a tree that fell unseen, unheard. So this thing is snowballing. The three sections will have their own follow ups of alternatives. And if at all anything remains left in me to write, I’ll see. But I’m not leaving go of this subject.

Join the Intellectual Anarchy!

About the Author

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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