America has gone through dramatic changes in the last century, but our education system has failed to keep up. One educator outlines eight steps we need to take to combat the crisis in our public school system.
America has gone through dramatic changes in its 219 years. Our economy has moved from agriculture to mass production; and now we are in an information- and knowledge-based environment that requires greater educational levels for success.
Yet the school model has changed very little. Our school year is still based on the agrarian model that allows our students to leave school for the spring planting and the summer and fall harvesting. Our schools are organized on the industrial top-down management model that was created to train people for low-skilled jobs through rote learning and individual skill-building in a time-structured and tightly disciplined environment.
True, our school buildings have changed. Some are even air-conditioned. Green boards have replaced the black slate of old. Yet in many classrooms, students still sit in straight rows. Teachers stand in front of the room, giving the perception that they have all the answers, using chalk-and-talk methods to pour knowledge into the seemingly empty heads of their students.
On the economic side, America cannot compete against low-wage, low-skill countries (see diagram on page 23). And if we are to compete against countries with advanced economies, we must do so with a highly skilled workforce. Unfortunately, our schools have failed to keep pace with the changing demands of the global marketplace and have become a drag on national productivity.
Some people believe that if we devote enough energy and resources to the problem, we will halt the decline of education. This assumes that pouring more money at a process that is faulty will somehow erase its faults. Experience suggests otherwise. After all, after 10 years of educational reform and $60 billion in new expenditures, standardized test scores are stagnant and dropout rates are climbing. Clearly, the "more-longer-harder" strategy-- lengthening the school year, extending the school day and making students and teachers work harder--is not working.