Did that get your attention? As a longtime educator, I often wondered what will happen to our schools once technology supplies us with viable alternatives to the old three r’s; readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic of the early 20th Century. Well, it’s happened. We’re on the cusp of a revolution in education beyond anything man has known in the past. Today I want to discuss serious issues our children and grand children will face.
At one time cut and dried and tried and true, that famous old 3-R curriculum has ballooned into a mish-mash of social, touchy-feely, gobbledygook most adults couldn’t wade through without a pitchfork. Math has always been an objective field, one that had no gray areas to puzzle over. Now, even math has side issues that call for feeling as well as thinking. Oh, not the real math, but what is being taught in some places. And what do teachers allow in their classes these days? Calculators, well before most kids have a secure grasp on mathematic principles. Is it any wonder we’re slipping in the sciences that are dependent on extremely accurate calculations requiring full understanding? Remember; garbage in, garbage out with calculators. Or with computers.
Got an idea where I’m headed with this? Good. Now let’s look at writing. Once the domain of sticklers for traditional penmanship, I fear that may have gone by the wayside as well. I won a prize in eighth grade for penmanship. It took over fifty years before my handwriting deteriorated to the point one has to look closely to be able to decipher it. If I’d not started all those years ago with a hand so steady it looked like the printed word, my writing would have been just a blur long ago. I understand that many schools have downgraded the need for penmanship because we have the word processor, complete with spell-check, electronic dictionaries, and other built-in writing aids.
So far, it sounds like I’m a dim viewer of things electronic, doesn’t it? Nothing could be further from the truth. I am a dim viewer of lazy teaching. Through my years as a student in elementary, middle grade, high school, college, and post graduate studies, I encountered many fine teachers. Selfless souls who labored mightily to pass along everything they’d learned in an effort to help the next generation move up the learning curve. They worked long hours, in meager surroundings, with measly equipment, and received precious little in monetary reward, all for the belief they’d done their best to help mankind.
From the late fifties into the early nineties, I watched more and more ill-prepared teachers enter the school work force as the older generation dropped by the wayside. Time after time, I saw a group of folks more concerned with their pay, vacations, and benefits, than with the need for a good education for their students.
In my first full year of teaching I made a mistake one day. I had bought a dress shirt that was light blue, like shirts TV anchors wore because the blue looked cleaner than white on a black and white TV screen. My students thought it was cool. My superintendent called me into his office to explain why I could not wear white like the other teachers. And if I’d ever taken my tie off in the classroom, I would have probably been sent home to change. Nowadays, in many schools, the teachers resemble homeless folks, not to demean the homeless. Is it any wonder respect for teachers has vanished in most schools?
Okay, enough of that. I think I’ve at least hinted at an approximation of the state of education in our schools today. Who will ride in on his white charger, wave his white hat, and spur us on to a better day? He’s already here, folks. The same technology that gives us low-cost eReaders and other electronic gear, will soon provide a simple, light-weight, multi-function capability, means of storing a year’s worth of curricula, or more. Bye-bye fifty pound backpacks that are causing physical problems for our students. Hello, a way for the bright student to move at his or her own pace. Bye-bye the classrooms where we all try to get along, because that’s more important than whether we learn anything. Group projects, where the bright student carries the loafers, too.
I could go on and outline my concept of 21st Century academic education for our children, but I prefer to let you put your own imagination to work. When we can give our kids everything they need without darkening the door of a school, why should we continue to subject them to a breeding ground for bullies, lazy intimidators, and a place where the lowest common denominator is not a math principle, but the modus operandi?
Put your thinking caps on, ladies and gentlemen, and dream of a better future for the world of education. You tell me what you envision as the schoolroom of 2025 will look like.