School, as an institution, is failing our society and it is failing us. All over the world, children in third world countries are starved for knowledge and eager to learn; yet here in the United States, school for students has become synonymous with prison.
Sure, it’s nice to see your friends, but nobody likes trying to make the grade or doing work that seems meaningless. Research on students in our school system clearly shows that with each successive grade, negative feelings for the subjects taught increases. By high school, the number of students completely burned out by our education system is ridiculous.In addition, it is hard for teachers to see so many students just give up. Research done by Public Agenda and the Learning Point Associates shows that two out of five teachers have become disheartened or disappointed about teaching. On top of that many people would also argue that the relevance of the subjects taught has been slowly decreasing.
A large number of high school graduates entering college have to take remedial classes, to learn things that they should have learned in high school. The main thing schools teaches
is to conform, to be obedient, and to respect authority. It just conditions you to an 8 to 5 workday. Why doesn’t this trouble anyone? These findings should inspire outrage, and yet few seem to care. Findings like these are usually just shrugged off by people. School is supposed to be awful, right? It’s supposed to be unpleasant; it gets you ready for the real world. But unpleasantness is unavoidable in life, there is no need to add it the school system. So what is the alternative? What will work better?
Research has proven again and again that all people, young and old, learn best when self-motivated. Sugata Mitra, a professor at Newcastle University, has done several experiments in third world countries where information is not freely available. He installed computers in villages in Africa and slums in India and allowed children to use them freely. The kids were able to quickly figure out how to use it without any previous instruction, and they worked together, sharing and communicating with each other what they learned. This is further evidence that just allowing kids to learn freely works.But the real question is; would this work for a school system? Yes, it will.
In Framingham, Massachusetts, the Sudbury Valley School applies this principle. Sudbury Valley is a different type of school, there are no classes or grades; there are only eight teachers, and students are allowed to do what they want as long as they follow the school rules. (Rules, which are created democratically by the students and staff.) This may sound crazy but it works. Over 80% of the graduates of Sudbury Valley go on to some form of higher education. Additionally, the school runs on half the budget a normal school that size would run on. (A budget which is also created in a democratic manner by the staff and students.) Overall, that type of school doesn’t only
work well, it does an outstanding job of educating students m uch better than the outdated system that the majority of our schools use today. Ultimately, the school system we currently use is outdated and there are better models.
It is time for a reform of school as an institution.