Questions and Thoughts about Education

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furyguitar
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Questions and Thoughts about Education

Postby furyguitar » Mon Oct 11, 2010 3:26 pm UTC

I am currently a chorus teacher in a public middle school. I care deeply about the state of American Education, both public and private. Education is something that is getting a lot of attention right now, with cover stories on Time, Newsweek, and a new movie, Waiting for Superman, to a name a few. We have all heard the statistics about how in a list of developed countries abilities in math and science, we rank in the mid 20's. So I have a litany of questions that I hope to discover the answers to at some point, perhaps with any available help offered by fellow posters.

1. How do schools in other, more "successful" countries deal with students with special needs? In this country, the public schools accept EVERYBODY. Private schools, charter schools, etc can be more selective. The public schools will take the students with social disorders, mental disorders and the like. Once upon a time, not every child went to school. The integration and inclusiveness of schools is a relatively new and gradual thing. So how does Sweden's schools deal with the autistic?

2. What is the state of parental involvement in the schools of higher achieving countries? Are parents involved with their student children? Do parents care about their children's education? Are parents involved in the schools themselves? When there is any sort of problem here, the public loves to turn to the schools/teachers as the problem. But I wonder, with sad state of reading comprehension I see, are parents reading with their kids at home? With what kind of skills and experiences are the children entering elementary school? I know my mother was reading with me and working on spelling before I ever stepped foot in a school.

3. Is school mandatory in these countries that outperform us? And, on a related subject, are there a variety of choices of the types of school the students can attend? Sometimes I think that school really isn't for everybody. Why can't a student go to a vocational school and learn how to fix a car, or develop some other type of school to make him/her a productive citizen, as opposed to failing in the "standard" school model?

4. What is the length of the school year in the top ten performing nations? And what is the length of the school day? How many years of schooling are students expected to complete? Mildly related, are they producing "well-rounded" students with art/music classes? Are they receiving physical education classes? Is lunch mandatory or can they eat in a class?

5. What is the value of education in the cultures of these countries that outperform us? Related, how do they view the profession of teaching? Also, how is school/education portrayed in the popular culture of your country? Is it cool to be smart/educated/learned?

As more questions come, they will be added to the original post, as well as any answers that anyone can provide (and, preferably, cite).
EDIT 10/12/10 - More subquestions added to number 5.

EDIT 4/20/2011: Merged a couple of similar 'musings on education' threads. - Az
Last edited by furyguitar on Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:21 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

Kryigerofe
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Re: Questions and Thoughts about Education in America/World

Postby Kryigerofe » Tue Oct 12, 2010 12:41 am UTC

I'm from Finland, a country that regularly does well in various studies, the Pisa study for example. My information might be slightly outdated, since it's been 20 years since elementary school and I don't have any children of my own. However, since the broader issues likely haven't changed, and our education was good back then as well, I'll have a go at your questions.

furyguitar wrote:1. How do schools in other, more "successful" countries deal with students with special needs? In this country, the public schools accept EVERYBODY. Private schools, charter schools, etc can be more selective. The public schools will take the students with social disorders, mental disorders and the like. Once upon a time, not every child went to school. The integration and inclusiveness of schools is a relatively new and gradual thing. So how does Sweden's schools deal with the autistic?


In Finland, practically everybody goes to public school. However, in my time, kids with serious disorders would go to a special group in a different building where the teacher/pupil ratio was higher and they received special education. Alternatively, they may have helpers in the classroom. Those who are simply poorer learners would attend class but might receive extra, private tutoring from the teacher after class. Funding for the special services has, however, been in something of a decline.

furyguitar wrote:2. What is the state of parental involvement in the schools of higher achieving countries? Are parents involved with their student children? Do parents care about their children's education? Are parents involved in the schools themselves? When there is any sort of problem here, the public loves to turn to the schools/teachers as the problem. But I wonder, with sad state of reading comprehension I see, are parents reading with their kids at home? With what kind of skills and experiences are the children entering elementary school? I know my mother was reading with me and working on spelling before I ever stepped foot in a school.


There are regular teacher-parent meetings in which various issues are discussed. This doesn't mean we don't have the blaming contest you describe. As for reading with kids at home, my parents at least merely read to me and rarely with me. Then again, I was a good student and didn't need help with such things. Children would enter elementary school (at age 6 or 7) with little formal education (possibly a year of non-mandatory pre-school in kinderkarten). I'm not sure how much parents tend to teach their kids informally - I'd expect it to depend on the child's interests. My parents would certainly support me in my eagerness to learn how to read (which I did before entering school).

furyguitar wrote:3. Is school mandatory in these countries that outperform us? And, on a related subject, are there a variety of choices of the types of school the students can attend? Sometimes I think that school really isn't for everybody. Why can't a student go to a vocational school and learn how to fix a car, or develop some other type of school to make him/her a productive citizen, as opposed to failing in the "standard" school model?


The first nine years of schooling are mandatory to everyone here. Technically, there's the option of home schooling, but I've never known anyone who hadn't attended public school. There's hardly any choice in which school to attend on that level -I know only one person who went to a different school than the default suggestion. On high school level there's some more choice, such as special schools for mathematically, artistically, athletically, etc. talented kids, but most still go to the closest one to home, at least in a smaller town. (That is, of those who go to high school - about half of the teenagers go to more practically oriented schools at that point.) There seems to have been a trend towards providing more choice in picking your curriculum, though, in junior high and high school.

furyguitar wrote:4. What is the length of the school year in the top ten performing nations? And what is the length of the school day? How many years of schooling are students expected to complete? Mildly related, are they producing "well-rounded" students with art/music classes? Are they receiving physical education classes? Is lunch mandatory or can they eat in a class?


Our school year begins halfway through August and ends at the end of May. This is mainly because we want to let the kids enjoy our shortish summer. The school day for the youngest ones was, maybe, 4 hours in my time, and increased to six at longest for the teenagers (and some seven-hour days in high school). The mandatory schooling lasts for nine years. The role of art and music are topic for constant debate but as far as I know there's always been an hour or two of both per week, maybe a little more for the younger kids, and you can pick more if you want. Same with sports. Lunch is provided by the school and it's mandatory to all.

furyguitar wrote:5. What is the value of education in the cultures of these countries that outperform us? Related, how do they view the profession of teaching?


Well, I don't really know enough to compare with other cultures, but we do value our primary education system quite a bit, and do have some respect for teachers I think. Though they're still not paid all that well.

This has been mostly about the first nine mandatory years of schooling, and high school. The university world would be another topic entirely, and Finland doesn't do quite as well there. I hope my non-expert views have been of some use to you.

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Re: Questions and Thoughts about Education in America/World

Postby furyguitar » Tue Oct 12, 2010 12:58 am UTC

Thank you for your thoughtful response. One thing I was wondering if you could elaborate on, specifically:
Kryigerofe wrote:On high school level there's some more choice, such as special schools for mathematically, artistically, athletically, etc. talented kids, but most still go to the closest one to home, at least in a smaller town. (That is, of those who go to high school - about half of the teenagers go to more practically oriented schools at that point.)

What do you mean by "practically oriented schools"? Is that a school that teaches you job skills, like our vocational/trade/career schools? (I see there is a section dedicated to Finland on this wikipedia page...)

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Re: Questions and Thoughts about Education in America/World

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Oct 12, 2010 6:22 am UTC

furyguitar wrote:I am currently a chorus teacher in a public middle school. I care deeply about the state of American Education, both public and private. Education is something that is getting a lot of attention right now, with cover stories on Time, Newsweek, and a new movie, Waiting for Superman, to a name a few. We have all heard the statistics about how in a list of developed countries abilities in math and science, we rank in the mid 20's. So I have a litany of questions that I hope to discover the answers to at some point, perhaps with any available help offered by fellow posters.


I'll give some comments here based on my experience from the Canadian system. FWIW, as part of my graduate work I'm required to teach courses/labs to undergraduate students, and my wife is a high school teacher. I happen to think that Canada is probably an interesting case study for this, because, despite being a neighbouring nation with a similar culture and language, Canada out-performs the United States by a fair margin in the generic rankings in math/science/reading.

furyguitar wrote:1. How do schools in other, more "successful" countries deal with students with special needs? In this country, the public schools accept EVERYBODY. Private schools, charter schools, etc can be more selective. The public schools will take the students with social disorders, mental disorders and the like. Once upon a time, not every child went to school. The integration and inclusiveness of schools is a relatively new and gradual thing. So how does Sweden's schools deal with the autistic?


Depends on the extent of the disability. For serious cognitive or behavioural disabilities, schools typically have a classroom set aside for these sorts of students, where there might be a teacher and several educational assistants available to help them. For less serious problems, students may be supplied an in-class educational assistant, or may have access to a "reading room" or "resource room" that they can go to during certain times of the day to work quietly with an EA or qualified special needs teacher, but will be included in the class for most of the day.

furyguitar wrote:2. What is the state of parental involvement in the schools of higher achieving countries? Are parents involved with their student children? Do parents care about their children's education? Are parents involved in the schools themselves? When there is any sort of problem here, the public loves to turn to the schools/teachers as the problem. But I wonder, with sad state of reading comprehension I see, are parents reading with their kids at home? With what kind of skills and experiences are the children entering elementary school? I know my mother was reading with me and working on spelling before I ever stepped foot in a school.


Varies quite strongly with socio-economic status. I don't have any hard figures. My personal experience is similar to yours, though.

furyguitar wrote:3. Is school mandatory in these countries that outperform us? And, on a related subject, are there a variety of choices of the types of school the students can attend? Sometimes I think that school really isn't for everybody. Why can't a student go to a vocational school and learn how to fix a car, or develop some other type of school to make him/her a productive citizen, as opposed to failing in the "standard" school model?


School is mandatory up to about ninth grade (varies a bit by province). During this mandatory period, most students take essentially the same subjects. There is some variation in the curriculum as the students near the end of high school, although the quantity and quality of these senior electives vary greatly between schools. A handful of high schools do offer apprenticeship programs for skilled trades or similar sorts of things, but these are the exception rather than the norm, in my experience.

furyguitar wrote:4. What is the length of the school year in the top ten performing nations? And what is the length of the school day? How many years of schooling are students expected to complete? Mildly related, are they producing "well-rounded" students with art/music classes? Are they receiving physical education classes? Is lunch mandatory or can they eat in a class?


In the province where I live, school generally starts around 8:30 and finishes around 3:00, from first grade through grade twelve (kindergarden is often only a half-day). Elementary school students are provided with two "nutrition breaks" around 11:00 and 1:30 to eat (about 15 min each) followed by a recess of about 30 minutes. Physical education is mandatory up to grade ten (sophomore in your system, I guess). The school year runs from the first week in September until approximately the last week in June, with about two weeks off for Christmas, and another week off in March. Art and music of some form or other are typically mandatory until high school; at this point students are normally required to take at least one fine art of their choice each year.

furyguitar wrote:5. What is the value of education in the cultures of these countries that outperform us? Related, how do they view the profession of teaching?


I think this is the best response I can give to your second question, even though it's a bit indirect:
Urban Canada has a rather significant surplus of qualified teachers; even the competition even for supply work is quite fierce. Teacher's colleges have relatively high entrance requirements (A or A- overall average of university courses, plus an interview and supporting documents is not unheard of, although this varies significantly between provinces) and the number of applicants each year far exceeds the number of spots available--and, realistically, the number of teachers certified by teacher's colleges probably outstrips the number of available positions in the market by a significant margin as well. Teachers receive reasonable renumeration ($40-50k per year plus benefits is typical [purchasing power is a bit lower here, so this is maybe $35-45k in USD]) despite the oversupply. Rural areas may experience teacher shortages from time-to-time, but compensation there is even higher to make up for it.

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Re: Questions and Thoughts about Education in America/World

Postby Kryigerofe » Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:40 am UTC

furyguitar wrote:What do you mean by "practically oriented schools"? Is that a school that teaches you job skills, like our vocational/trade/career schools? (I see there is a section dedicated to Finland on this wikipedia page...)


Yes, things like fixing cars etc.

Edit: To clarify: This happens after the nine years of mandatory theoretical education. I'm surprised if that's different from other countries..

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Re: Questions and Thoughts about Education in America/World

Postby Dark567 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 1:04 pm UTC

Well for the record the US basically requires 11-13 years of primary/secondary theoretical education, so its not surprising we don't have trade stuff in our education system when students have already been in school that long.
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Re: Questions and Thoughts about Education in America/World

Postby Kryigerofe » Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:40 pm UTC

At what age do students in US usually get out of mandatory education then? Here it's around 15.

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Re: Questions and Thoughts about Education in America/World

Postby Dark567 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:50 pm UTC

Kryigerofe wrote:At what age do students in US usually get out of mandatory education then? Here it's around 15.

Most states make it illegal to drop out of school before 17-18. It can be hard to enforce though.
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Re: Questions and Thoughts about Education in America/World

Postby mmmcannibalism » Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:49 pm UTC

If I may add a tangent to the culture question; to what extent do various cultures value merit based achievement? For instance, is it more admirable to be a lawyer or on a reality tv show.
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Re: Questions and Thoughts about Education in America/World

Postby Glmclain » Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:52 pm UTC

Here in my school (USA) everyone watches "16 and Pregnant" religiously. More or less, if you're famous it doesn't matter how you got there. Right now most of the people in my school's dream is to be on reality TV, which is pretty fucking depressing IMO.

The people that say "That's stupid, I'm gonna go to college and become a lawyer or doctor" are generally considered as "trying too hard."

So yeah, pretty goddamn depressing.
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Re: Questions and Thoughts about Education in America/World

Postby Zcorp » Tue Oct 12, 2010 11:23 pm UTC

Glmclain wrote:Here in my school (USA) everyone watches "16 and Pregnant" religiously. More or less, if you're famous it doesn't matter how you got there. Right now most of the people in my school's dream is to be on reality TV, which is pretty fucking depressing IMO.

The people that say "That's stupid, I'm gonna go to college and become a lawyer or doctor" are generally considered as "trying too hard."

So yeah, pretty goddamn depressing.

Ugh, I hoped the 'trying to hard' meme would just stick to the online gaming world. Depressing that it is influencing our school systems as well.

And to contribute a bit...
While I think there is much to gain from understanding the broad systemic differences between our (usa's) educational system and the leading nations, I'd bet it has a lot more to do with the general culture and details in teaching. Positive psychology has been a plague on American minds which seems evident with the confidence stat presented in Superman. We need to be teaching our populace how to deal with reality, not suggesting they hide themselves in their own delusional worlds because they will feel better that way.

Edit: Just ran across this; Why aren't our Teachers the best and the brightest?. Which basically says our culture doesn't respect teachers, we aren't selective about our teachers, doesn't pay teachers, we don't encourage continual learning in our teachers and we don't teach our teachers. While Singapore, Finland and South Korea do all of those things and they are seeing results.

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Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby QuiteJaughty » Thu Dec 09, 2010 2:46 am UTC

==========================================================================================
THREAD MERGE THE FIRST
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Hi All,
Let me start with a bit of background. I'm currently a senior in high school. I attend the top public high school in Illinois (that is, of the non-magnet schools), and I'm proud to say that (by the arbitrary measure of how it is ranked) I'm one of the people who has helped to put it there. I've met an incredible number of brilliant teachers who've helped me grow, and enjoyed a wonderfully competitive environment that has spurred and nurtured my natural intelligence. Yet as I fret about college decisions, which for me shall be coming out in a week, I've come to realize a few things. The culmination of that is just how flawed our school system is.

That competitive spirit I mentioned? That was wonderful for me, a kid who enjoyed learning and needed the push of competition to get his lazy ass moving sometimes. I mean this not in pretension, but by way of example: I'm a rare breed. That competitive spirit has done the very opposite to just about everyone else at my school, and the current university system has destroyed the true meaning of education, as far as I'm concerned. I'll offer a few anecdotes:
1. One of my best friends, a darling, petite girl made up of three parts brain, is hinging on acceptance to Harvard. She is one of a few people who is looking to Harvard not for its, but because she truly loves it there (she spent a few summers doing summer work there). Her passion for mathematics and philosophy is unrivaled. She took a few extracurriculars, a demanding course load, but did no sports and didn't play an instrument. After four years, I sometimes fear she's fraying at the edges. If any of you are around my age, or have kept up with the current admissions system, you know how slim the chances are that she's getting in.
2. A different gal has started two clubs, joined at least five others, and led all of them. She's destroyed all her classes in terms of coursework, pulled a 35 on her ACT as a freshman, and is without a doubt brilliant. She's volunteered and interned everywhere from here to the moon. If you're imagining the stereotypical Asian kid, you're just about right.
I am, of course, very biased. But you can understand my frustration when I see that sort of thing. You can take a guess at who will be earning of those spots at a select school.

That's not the only issue though. The kids I've gotten to know over the past four years, the majority of them are brilliant. But they have been trained their whole lives to be automatons who earn grades. Every essay looks the same, they all use note cards for their history and biology exams, and they can spit out math and physics formulas like it was nothing. The very ability to risk, academically and intellectually, is gone; grades have replaced that option. The desire for learning isn't there. AP classes and clubs are all part of the path to college. This is one case where competition simply has not produced the best result.

But take a dip down to southern Illinois, and you have the opposite problem. I was discussing with a teacher today who graduated from her high school twenty-five years ago. She graduated in a class of a little over fifty and six went to college. Those six were hounded with scholarships and offers for selective schools. So you would imagine that it has gotten better. Not according to her: the current graduating class is around thirty, they have no AP options or advanced course scheduling, no gifted programs, and even a smaller fraction is going off to college.

To me, this is horrifying. One of the most beautiful things I've learned about in high school were the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. In each case, the roots were a love of learning, a desire of understanding. And as far as I'm concerned, we need that to come again (perhaps without the rabid atheism though), because there is no love of learning anymore. On one end, you have kids who have no prospects and no desire to work hard. On the other hand, you have kids pushed by over-competition to simply do what they are taught. What generally separates the U.S.' educational system from the world (and what makes us unique) is that creativity and understanding we foster in our students, the fact that we don't teach students to memorize by rote, but to think.

In any case, I'm sure by now, you can understand my frustration. One of the things I desire to do when I grow up (oh my, how cliched this sounds, and it only gets more so) is to completely reform the educational system, and the system of learning in the U.S. in general. But I need to flesh out how to tackle the situation. So, here are my preliminary ideas:

- Expand public university system
-Monthly forum to every household
This is a sort of secondary idea, and barely feasible, but one which I'm attracted to nonetheless. The idea would be to establish a board of people who would ask for submissions from anyone in the U.S., asking for debate and opinion on any topic. Those which are the best-reasoned and most pertinent, from any viewpoint, are compiled and published monthly. A conservative estimate for the cost would be about a 500 million a month for each monthly delivery, a pamphlet delivered to every household. Sure, it seems like a throwaway, but ideally, if even a quarter of those households skim one or two articles, the environment of understanding begins to change.
-Overhaul secondary system
The secondary educational system is where children shape their very personalities and character, and where a love of learning is inspired. Yet at this time, the system is geared to rote-learning and having kids wallow in school learning to barely read and write and do math.
+ Replace Teachers
Teachers are the basis of the system and they’re failing. Teaching is currently a second-rate profession that is often a last resort for those out of college who can’t get jobs. There is a necessity here to set up new system for teaching teachers and requiring a rigorous set of double majors to both be able to teach and know the subject in-depth. The recommendation is a master’s degree, though perhaps a bit unfeasible. Tenure, most importantly, needs to be completely reformed (not eliminated), and administration needs to be tightened in monitoring and evaluating teachers.
+ Get rid of grades for an intra-school merit system
Grades have geared even the most intelligent students to simply memorize by rote to get into university. Even universities are now have trouble differentiating between the students who have simply memorized and tutored their way through high school and into college and students who have an actual passion for learning (an ever smaller minority). By removing grades and instead setting up an intra-school merit system, there is less of a college focus and more of a focus on the material. Furthermore, this should be incorporated into extracurriculars; if a student is doing well, they’ll be allowed to play. If they’re not, they will be pulled out of competition or required to do extra work.
+ Flexible movement through grades
There shouldn’t be a simple 1-12 setup. Students do not mature at the same rate; some come to school with more knowledge, some learn more quickly. Learning needs to be far more specialized, with smaller class sizes and a flexibility in changing grades. If a student has the main concept of a class nailed, they should be able to move on. This is more evident for lower grades than higher ones.

So what I would like now is anything you'd like to offer: opinions, flaws, additions, logistics, things I've forgotten, misconceptions I'm holding.
Thanks for reading the rant.

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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby bobjoesmith » Thu Dec 09, 2010 4:02 am UTC

...regarding anecdote 2... IF you had studied your butt off, taken all your time and invested it in studying, are truly brilliant and get outbid by someone who is... passionate? Im sorry, i like your idea that love of learning is good, but it takes more than a passionate room of people to send lance armstrong (im just kidding, i know its neil armstrong) to the moon. You could cite passionate people who achieved great things, but those are flukes. 99% of ur CEO's as well as most of your dictators and conquerors were eight measures of competition to two measures of passion.

The simplest question is would you let a passionate surgeon do heart surgery on you even if he failed med school? grades are there measure progress: you can memorize things, but if you are passionate why aren't you memorizing? if you are less smart, then it would be unfair to the smarter kids to give up their position to let you in because then who would be held back?

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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby Роберт » Thu Dec 09, 2010 4:14 am UTC

QuiteJaughty wrote: Flexible movement through grades
There shouldn’t be a simple 1-12 setup. Students do not mature at the same rate; some come to school with more knowledge, some learn more quickly. Learning needs to be far more specialized, with smaller class sizes and a flexibility in changing grades. If a student has the main concept of a class nailed, they should be able to move on. This is more evident for lower grades than higher ones.
I definitely agree with this concept. And the idea in general that public schooling has problems, particularly in damaging natural creativity and love of learning. Of course, I was homeschooled, and was very pleased with it. (And got a 4.0 for my engineering degree in college.) So I don't have a first hand experience with public school. (My dad taught in one, though. I also have a lot of friends who teach.)
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby ++$_ » Thu Dec 09, 2010 4:25 am UTC

the current university system has destroyed the true meaning of education
I would suggest you go to university before you decide whether or not the university system is working properly. It works an awful lot better than you seem to think, especially at the top universities. Though there is an element of truth in a lot of the things you're saying

That said, you are right on about high school, at least as I see it.
1. One of my best friends, a darling, petite girl made up of three parts brain, is hinging on acceptance to Harvard.
Fuck Harvard. Don't take this the wrong way -- I think it's a great school. But here is an incomplete list of other great schools in this country:

Brown
Caltech
Columbia
Dartmouth
Harvey Mudd
MIT
Pomona
Princeton
Stanford
U. of Chicago
Yale

I promise that you will not get a better education at Harvard than you will at those schools. Furthermore, many of them have great philosophy AND math programs, especially the University of Chicago, which is super awesome! So if someone has her heart set on getting into Harvard, she ought to change that. In general, if you think you have one true "soul mate" university ("alma mate," perhaps?) then you are wrong.

Also, I do not see what her height has to do with anything.
I am, of course, very biased. But you can understand my frustration when I see that sort of thing. You can take a guess at who will be earning of those spots at a select school.
I'm not actually sure what you're saying. Reading between the lines of your descriptions I guess you are upset that Girl No. 1 is in your perception the better student/candidate/person, but you think that Girl No. 2, who you don't like very much, is more likely to get into Harvard?

Anyway, first of all, don't be so sure. Admissions officers are a lot more competent than you seem to think, and they are pretty good at recognizing passionate people. They are not very impressed by an ACT score of 35 as a freshman, because they know they could fill their entire class with people who got ACT scores of 35 as freshmen. It's much more important to them to fill their class with passionate, interesting people.

Second, what happens when you strip away your personal biases? Girl No. 2 is probably passionately interested in something, too. She is probably not doing all of those things just because she can. Have you tried to find out?
That's not the only issue though. The kids I've gotten to know over the past four years, the majority of them are brilliant. But they have been trained their whole lives to be automatons who earn grades. Every essay looks the same, they all use note cards for their history and biology exams, and they can spit out math and physics formulas like it was nothing. The very ability to risk, academically and intellectually, is gone; grades have replaced that option. The desire for learning isn't there. AP classes and clubs are all part of the path to college. This is one case where competition simply has not produced the best result.
I totally agree. In my opinion, the problem is that teachers are not willing to set serious challenges for their students out of fear that the students will fail, and that this will ruin their chances in later life. No one wants that, so they don't force the students to take risks. I have read way too many bad high school essays that go on to earn As. Needless to say, the outstanding characteristic of the one effective English class I took in high school was that you had to really earn an A. Heck, you had to really earn a B. My writing improved more in the first semester of that class than it had in the two years before, just because it had to.

Also, that class was an AP class. The total amount of time we spent "preparing" for the AP exam was 1 day. This is how AP classes should be taught, in my opinion.

I recently had the opportunity to examine the college transcript of someone who went on to win a Nobel Prize in physics. The thing I noted the most was the number of Cs. He got a C in his first physics class, if I recall correctly. That must have been a doozy of a physics class. I wish we still had classes like that. (This was before WWII.)
-Monthly forum to every household
This is a sort of secondary idea, and barely feasible, but one which I'm attracted to nonetheless. The idea would be to establish a board of people who would ask for submissions from anyone in the U.S., asking for debate and opinion on any topic. Those which are the best-reasoned and most pertinent, from any viewpoint, are compiled and published monthly. A conservative estimate for the cost would be about a 500 million a month for each monthly delivery, a pamphlet delivered to every household. Sure, it seems like a throwaway, but ideally, if even a quarter of those households skim one or two articles, the environment of understanding begins to change.
We have such things -- their names are anything from The New York Times to Nature. To be fair, they are not quite what you are envisioning, which is one unified system paid for (presumably) by tax money. But it turns out that people prefer to throw such things away in favor of watching Fox News or Glee.
-Overhaul secondary system
The secondary educational system is where children shape their very personalities and character, and where a love of learning is inspired. Yet at this time, the system is geared to rote-learning and having kids wallow in school learning to barely read and write and do math.
Yeah, I agree, but how are we going to fix this? It is much easier to get through high school if you love learning (unless your goal is having sex, in which case my highly scientific sample (N = 4) suggests that is a terrible strategy in high school) than it is if you decide to grind it out, but kids do not take this path anyway. Partly the teachers are to blame. But how do we fix it? Where is the money to pay for better teachers?
+ Replace Teachers
Teachers are the basis of the system and they’re failing. Teaching is currently a second-rate profession that is often a last resort for those out of college who can’t get jobs. There is a necessity here to set up new system for teaching teachers and requiring a rigorous set of double majors to both be able to teach and know the subject in-depth. The recommendation is a master’s degree, though perhaps a bit unfeasible. Tenure, most importantly, needs to be completely reformed (not eliminated), and administration needs to be tightened in monitoring and evaluating teachers.
I think we should switch the pay of teachers and bankers. This is not possible.

Barring actually paying teachers at the rates they deserve, I do not see how to improve the system. I would love to teach high school, and I think I would be rather good at it, but I am not going to do so when I get paid next to nothing for such a difficult (and thankless) job. I can do a much easier job, get paid more, AND get appreciated more. I do not see where the money is going to come from to pay for this.
+ Get rid of grades for an intra-school merit system
I am not sure what this means. How is this different from just "grading on a curve" or class ranks? When I visited MIT, I asked someone (who is really smart) about a particular dorm and she responded, "Oh, that's the dorm where all the former valedictorians live," in a very dismissive way. The point is that a significant slice of the people who go to MIT did well at the intra-school merit system, but that didn't guarantee that they had a love of learning or anything. If you are suggesting that the intra-school merit scores not be reported to the colleges, then I don't see how this would make it easier for the colleges to differentiate between students!

Personally, I think what is needed is for standards to increase a lot. If you can get through high school English with an A while writing shitty essays (and you can), then something is wrong, and it's not going to be fixed by a ranking system if the teachers still rank shitty essays highly.

+ Flexible movement through grades
There shouldn’t be a simple 1-12 setup. Students do not mature at the same rate; some come to school with more knowledge, some learn more quickly. Learning needs to be far more specialized, with smaller class sizes and a flexibility in changing grades. If a student has the main concept of a class nailed, they should be able to move on. This is more evident for lower grades than higher ones.
I am a big advocate of skipping classes. I should not have had to study addition of fractions in 7th grade -- for the third fucking time. (Come to think of it, I actually DIDN'T have to, but that is because my parents and I made a BIG stink about it, and many families wouldn't have bothered.) I would be a much better mathematician right now if I had been allowed to study calculus when I wanted to rather than having to wait two years. Of course I read a calculus textbook anyway, but it isn't the same.

EDIT: Angry side note removed (see Faid Rant Thread if you really want to read it).

I am not a big advocate of skipping grades. When people skip grades, they end up going to college younger than usual (say, at age 16). Then they graduate at age 20. Whoop-dee-fucking-doo -- what they gained by skipping grades is two years of extra life in the workforce. They, and society, would have been so much better served if they had spent those two extra years learning more things so that they could have 2 years more knowledge than everyone else. This is only possible if schools have the resources to handle kids of all different maturities and intelligences.

Smaller class sizes are also the best thing ever (as long as you have a good teacher), but they cost money. Again, it is all a question of resources, and we don't have them.

Also, the social climate of high school is something to take into account. There is a major problem that love of learning is often not respected by other kids, and this causes people to put it aside. Because, what a lot of people love even more than learning is having the respect and friendship of their peers. They will gladly put aside their love for chemistry and math if it means that they can hang out with the cool kids. This is true even at good high schools. I don't actually know what it is like at really bad high schools.

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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby Zcorp » Thu Dec 09, 2010 4:33 am UTC

There is a lot up to debate right now in education, with pretty much just one agreed upon idea in America, we are doing it wrong.
QuiteJaughty wrote:So you would imagine that it has gotten better. Not according to her: the current graduating class is around thirty, they have no AP options or advanced course scheduling, no gifted programs, and even a smaller fraction is going off to college.
School tracking based on student performance has a lot of evidence to suggest it hurts our educational system, it doesn't seem to be a boon.
Jeanie Oaks talks about it her book and references associated studies. You can also see it discussed a bit in the Waiting for Superman documentary (if you can really call it that) and various interviews with Geoffrey Canada of Kipp Schools.

What generally separates the U.S.' educational system from the world (and what makes us unique) is that creativity and understanding we foster in our students, the fact that we don't teach students to memorize by rote, but to think.
Its a nice dream that has been indoctrinated into you but its not true. We have no data to suggest that we are all more creative as a country or that our educational system fosters that in our populace. We are falling behind in every subject, including areas related to creative problem solving and critical thinking. You can look to various PISA scores or cross cultural comparisons, I believe the article just posted in the News section of this site from the NY times covers the problem as well.

Here is a Ken Robinson ted talk where he discusses how he thinks school kills creativity and the aspects he is worried about more incredibly prevalent in the U.S.

In any case, I'm sure by now, you can understand my frustration. One of the things I desire to do when I grow up (oh my, how cliched this sounds, and it only gets more so) is to completely reform the educational system, and the system of learning in the U.S. in general. But I need to flesh out how to tackle the situation.
Lots of people working on it or trying to, including myself. There are lots of problems, like gathering data the suggests which changes to the system have a positive effect, training teachers in those techniques and building upon those.

I'd write you a giant book on the subjects but many have already been written so I'll just refer you to them.
Check out the aforementioned Geoffrey Canada and KIPP charter schools.
NY schools in recent years and TSL.
Jeannie Oaks's book that I already mentioned.
You can look at Mel Levine's book A Mind at a Time, relating to differences in learning.
William Glassers Every Student can Succeed and Choice Theory. Glasser also talks about moving away from grades to a competence based system.


Etc etc etc.
But generally the point is we need to create a system where it is socially reinforced to learn, where all students feel like they can succeed, where all teachers feel like all the students can succeed, where the students are bonded with each other and the teachers, where the students have great educational tools and resources, where individual learning and temperament preferences can be addressed and where we create not just good workers but also good global citizens.

As for replacing teachers, its not really practical, realistic nor useful the closest thing we can likely do is create an online educational compendium. Like a wikipedia but with the intent of teaching any and everyone about every subject we can. While having classroom teachers move into more of a tutoring role.

Also for a system as broken as ours where even PhD's don't correlate to expertise in the field let alone critical thinking we need to completely rework our metric of competence. So requesting that teachers have a Masters or Dual bachelors goes completely against the notion that our system doesn't create good results right now, as you are just requesting people to jump through more arbitrary hoops to enter a really low paying job in America (teaching pays significantly more overseas, Ireland, Singapore, apparently China if that NYT article is accurate).

Also everything mentioned so far (except an online compendium) focuses on K-12, there are huge problems at the university level and even learning opportunities present for working adults.

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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby The EGE » Thu Dec 09, 2010 4:57 am UTC

Read Lockhart's Lament. It's long - 25 pages - but it gets at the heart of one of the issues you're dealing with, the suppression of creativity. It is possibly my favorite thing under 50 pages long.
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby mmmcannibalism » Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:23 am UTC

The EGE wrote:Read Lockhart's Lament. It's long - 25 pages - but it gets at the heart of one of the issues you're dealing with, the suppression of creativity. It is possibly my favorite thing under 50 pages long.


I think the problem with Lockhartslament is that it is too long.

It can be summed up largely in a sentence or two.

We teach math as some sort of holy being that is truth incarnate and incapable of comprehension. We teach math as if its something that has always been understood, and not something that is a process of discovery. If we taught math in the context of here is something cool, lets look at ways of showing its true(teacher guided or through exploration) we would be a whole lot better off.
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby ++$_ » Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:07 am UTC

The extra length of Lockhart's Lament is needed for those who aren't already familiar with that aspect of mathematics. Otherwise they'd come away wondering he could possibly mean by creativity in math.

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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby savanik » Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:08 pm UTC

Three comments.

First, hats off to you. I'm impressed at the breadth of your experience and concern that you already have, and suspect that you'll go on to excel, wherever that might end up being. I was an antisocial little dweeb through most all of high school, and it was only in college that I actually managed to break out of my shell and figure out that people were more interesting than books.

Second, a word of warning. Ten years from now, none of this is going to seem nearly as important as it does right now. Right now, it really, really matters, but once you get out in the world, I think you'll find out that most of life's problems can be divided into two categories:

1. The problems you can directly address and make a large difference in. Necessarily, these problems are not broad or sweeping in scope. For example, teaching your own kid what's so cool about science, or leading a local hackerspace or other learning-oriented group. This will do nothing to help students the next state over, but you can have an individual, measurable difference and they can be significantly rewarding.

2. Systemic problems. Such as teachers' unions fixing the system so that lower-scoring teachers can't be fired, or curriculum being determined by the school board voting on creationism. The fact is, so many people have a say in this your voice is drowned out by the masses. You can hit these topics with all the passion and intelligence you can muster up and you won't even make a dent, short of actually getting elected to the position that makes the decision, and if it's a decision that'll be voted on, even that won't work. Learn to live with it or work around it.

Even Reps in the House of Representatives are frustrated by the fact that there's just too many people running around for any of them to actually make a meaningful difference. That's why they stick together in huge, monolithic voting blocs - every Rep has their own ideas about how things should be being done, but none of them can make a difference if they act as individuals, and if they try, they'll be instantly voted out of office by their hundreds of thousands of constituents.

Finally, if I were a senior looking at college, I would first and foremost question the economics of going to college. There's a large market oversupply of college graduates right now, so demand and thus wages for college degrees is falling, while tuition costs are skyrocketing. Is it really a good idea to be burdened with a half a million dollars in debt to get a Master's degree from Harvard and be highly competitive in the job market?

Let me put that in some other ways to be clear: $500,000.00 in debt coming out of Harvard with a Master's Degree. That's four large houses in the Midwest, or one on either coast. 10 luxury cars. Enough money for a family of four to live comfortably for nearly a decade. And it all has to get paid back eventually. Even if you came straight out of college with a 6-figure income, it would STILL take you 5 years to pay it back, if you did nothing other than pay back the debt.

It still may be a good option - I benefited greatly from my time in college. It was a really good experience. I went to a really cheap college (Only $10k a year), but I'm still paying off the debt, and some days it feels like I'll never finish that. :D It's a question to consider.
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby Yakk » Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:17 pm UTC

QuiteJaughty wrote:1. One of my best friends, a darling, petite girl made up of three parts brain, is hinging on acceptance to Harvard. She is one of a few people who is looking to Harvard not for its, but because she truly loves it there (she spent a few summers doing summer work there). Her passion for mathematics and philosophy is unrivaled. She took a few extracurriculars, a demanding course load, but did no sports and didn't play an instrument. After four years, I sometimes fear she's fraying at the edges. If any of you are around my age, or have kept up with the current admissions system, you know how slim the chances are that she's getting in.

Its reputation? (incomplete sentence) In any case, it isn't about what she wants. It is about what Harvard wants. Because Harvard is in a better position than your friend.
2. A different gal has started two clubs, joined at least five others, and led all of them. She's destroyed all her classes in terms of coursework, pulled a 35 on her ACT as a freshman, and is without a doubt brilliant. She's volunteered and interned everywhere from here to the moon. If you're imagining the stereotypical Asian kid, you're just about right.
I am, of course, very biased. But you can understand my frustration when I see that sort of thing. You can take a guess at who will be earning of those spots at a select school.

And quite possibly this is what Harvard wants. Achievers -- people who do things. (By the way, there is a bunch of racist anti-Asian stuff going around educational circles around now.)
Every essay looks the same, they all use note cards for their history and biology exams, and they can spit out math and physics formulas like it was nothing. The very ability to risk, academically and intellectually, is gone; grades have replaced that option. The desire for learning isn't there. AP classes and clubs are all part of the path to college. This is one case where competition simply has not produced the best result.

Other than "every essay looks the same", your conclusion isn't supported by your cited evidence.

Are you sure they don't desire to learn? Maybe they both desire the status, and desire to learn, but the status-building activities more than satisfy their desire to learn.
To me, this is horrifying. One of the most beautiful things I've learned about in high school were the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.

What you describe about those times is generally what the elite experienced. While the elite grew, most of of the population wasn't living the "love of learning". They where trying to get their physical state of being to a tolerable level. Now, the rich elites did manage to write more of the books and set the narrative, because that is what educated elites do. But be careful with your romance with history. :)
What generally separates the U.S.' educational system from the world (and what makes us unique) is that creativity and understanding we foster in our students, the fact that we don't teach students to memorize by rote, but to think.

Also be careful with your blind nationalism. You aren't unique. You are describing a myth.
- Expand public university system

Sounds expensive. As it stands, students who want to go to public universities can, at pretty darn low prices, with the rest covered by loans.

How do you want them to be bigger?
-Monthly forum to every household
This is a sort of secondary idea, and barely feasible, but one which I'm attracted to nonetheless. The idea would be to establish a board of people who would ask for submissions from anyone in the U.S., asking for debate and opinion on any topic. Those which are the best-reasoned and most pertinent, from any viewpoint, are compiled and published monthly. A conservative estimate for the cost would be about a 500 million a month for each monthly delivery, a pamphlet delivered to every household. Sure, it seems like a throwaway, but ideally, if even a quarter of those households skim one or two articles, the environment of understanding begins to change.

... um. Did you know about the internet?

This looks like a command-economy version of internet message boards that uses dead trees.
-Overhaul secondary system
The secondary educational system is where children shape their very personalities and character, and where a love of learning is inspired. Yet at this time, the system is geared to rote-learning and having kids wallow in school learning to barely read and write and do math.

You need to work on your English composition skills, because the above paragraph is incoherent.
+ Replace Teachers
Teachers are the basis of the system and they’re failing. Teaching is currently a second-rate profession that is often a last resort for those out of college who can’t get jobs. There is a necessity here to set up new system for teaching teachers and requiring a rigorous set of double majors to both be able to teach and know the subject in-depth. The recommendation is a master’s degree, though perhaps a bit unfeasible. Tenure, most importantly, needs to be completely reformed (not eliminated), and administration needs to be tightened in monitoring and evaluating teachers.

The number of elementary and high school teachers a population needs is huge. All of these plans to generate "elite teachers" never seem to look at that problem.

Each person in the nation spends ages 5 to 18 or so in elementary/secondary school. They live an average of 80 years. That's 14 years of life out of 80, or 17.5%.

At a 20:1 student:teacher ratio (teachers who spend all of their time teaching don't have time to evaluate students or prepare lesson plans, so this is a classroom ratio closer to 30:1), that means at any one time 0.875% of the population needs be teaching, roughly.

Now, a teacher who graduates at age 26 with qualifications, and works solid until age 66, has spent 40 years teaching -- or half of their life. So we need 1.75% of the population to be career-teachers -- probably closer to 2.5%, given that people change careers, retire early, or take longer to get into the career than expected.

Now suppose you want to pay high school teachers like the average holder of a professional degree (double major, masters, etc). That is 70k per year.

Add 50% for overhead (schools are not cheap), and we get:
70k * 2.5% * 150% = 2,625$ for every man, woman and child in the USA.

The US GDP per capita is about 45000$. So this works out to 5.8% of US GDP spent on primary and secondary education.

So, step 1: To fund that, first dismantle the US military and get complete control over the freed up spending. Get back to me once you are done (we need to get the funding source from somewhere, after all).
+ Get rid of grades for an intra-school merit system
Grades have geared even the most intelligent students to simply memorize by rote to get into university. Even universities are now have trouble differentiating between the students who have simply memorized and tutored their way through high school and into college and students who have an actual passion for learning (an ever smaller minority). By removing grades and instead setting up an intra-school merit system, there is less of a college focus and more of a focus on the material. Furthermore, this should be incorporated into extracurriculars; if a student is doing well, they’ll be allowed to play. If they’re not, they will be pulled out of competition or required to do extra work.

To some extent, why should the university care about "actual passion for learning"? If you master learning in order to gain status, or you master learning because you find it addictive, why should the university care?

Second, there isn't enough supply of top-notch, high-status educational institutions. How do you propose rationing them? How do you propose enforcing your decision?

I don't get your extracurricular comments.
+ Flexible movement through grades
There shouldn’t be a simple 1-12 setup. Students do not mature at the same rate; some come to school with more knowledge, some learn more quickly. Learning needs to be far more specialized, with smaller class sizes and a flexibility in changing grades. If a student has the main concept of a class nailed, they should be able to move on. This is more evident for lower grades than higher ones.

The current US system is based off of the concept of social promotion. What you are describing is a mastery-based education system. There are alternative education providers who follow that path at private schools.

Note that the US education system is designed to educate even people who don't want to be educated all that much. That is important.
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:31 pm UTC

QuiteJaughty wrote:-Overhaul secondary system
The secondary educational system is where children shape their very personalities and character, and where a love of learning is inspired. Yet at this time, the system is geared to rote-learning and having kids wallow in school learning to barely read and write and do math.


I think secondary education is much too late, to be honest. I would start at primary level--or earlier, if possible.

QuiteJaughty wrote: + Replace Teachers
Teachers are the basis of the system and they’re failing. Teaching is currently a second-rate profession that is often a last resort for those out of college who can’t get jobs. There is a necessity here to set up new system for teaching teachers and requiring a rigorous set of double majors to both be able to teach and know the subject in-depth. The recommendation is a master’s degree, though perhaps a bit unfeasible. Tenure, most importantly, needs to be completely reformed (not eliminated), and administration needs to be tightened in monitoring and evaluating teachers.


I do agree that teachers are part of the problem, since they have the most direct interaction with students. I'm not convinced more credentials will necessarily result in an increase in the quality of teaching, unless it is accompanied by a significant increase in teacher pay--otherwise, you're just going to create a massive teacher shortage. Even still, unless you have a reform in what is taught in faculties of education at universities, you aren't going to necessarily see a significant change here; teachers may end up with more letters after their names, but that doesn't mean that they'll actually teach any differently. Part of the problem, however, is that the curriculum is created by bureaucrats or school boards. In some cases, by people who have no experience in teaching or education whatsoever, and may have ulterior motives for their choices of curricula. See, for example, the Intelligent Design movement.

QuiteJaughty wrote: + Get rid of grades for an intra-school merit system
Grades have geared even the most intelligent students to simply memorize by rote to get into university. Even universities are now have trouble differentiating between the students who have simply memorized and tutored their way through high school and into college and students who have an actual passion for learning (an ever smaller minority). By removing grades and instead setting up an intra-school merit system, there is less of a college focus and more of a focus on the material. Furthermore, this should be incorporated into extracurriculars; if a student is doing well, they’ll be allowed to play. If they’re not, they will be pulled out of competition or required to do extra work.


I think the better solution would be to get rid of rote memorization rather than grades. I would start by eliminating multiple choice testing entirely, which reinforces rote memorization more than anything else, and, in my opinion, is only used because it is efficient to mark it. The irony, too, is that rote memorization actually isn't all that efficient: few people, ten years after having finished, say, quadratic equations, would be able to even remember what one is unless they've been exposed to them either through university or in their workplace. The education system dumps so much information on students that retention rates are truly dreadful, and there's so much information available to learn, that even choosing what universally important and what is not isn't really possible. It might be more useful to teach, rather than many particular concepts, to emphasize the best ways to go about acquiring knowledge that is important or interesting to the student.

QuiteJaughty wrote: + Flexible movement through grades
There shouldn’t be a simple 1-12 setup. Students do not mature at the same rate; some come to school with more knowledge, some learn more quickly. Learning needs to be far more specialized, with smaller class sizes and a flexibility in changing grades. If a student has the main concept of a class nailed, they should be able to move on. This is more evident for lower grades than higher ones.


I like this idea, but it's a logistical nightmare.

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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby Роберт » Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:48 pm UTC

savanik wrote:Finally, if I were a senior looking at college, I would first and foremost question the economics of going to college. There's a large market oversupply of college graduates right now, so demand and thus wages for college degrees is falling, while tuition costs are skyrocketing. Is it really a good idea to be burdened with a half a million dollars in debt to get a Master's degree from Harvard and be highly competitive in the job market?

Let me put that in some other ways to be clear: $500,000.00 in debt coming out of Harvard with a Master's Degree. That's four large houses in the Midwest, or one on either coast. 10 luxury cars. Enough money for a family of four to live comfortably for nearly a decade. And it all has to get paid back eventually. Even if you came straight out of college with a 6-figure income, it would STILL take you 5 years to pay it back, if you did nothing other than pay back the debt.

It still may be a good option - I benefited greatly from my time in college. It was a really good experience. I went to a really cheap college (Only $10k a year), but I'm still paying off the debt, and some days it feels like I'll never finish that. :D It's a question to consider.

I agree that you need to be careful here. You need to think about what type of degree you would be getting and how expensive the school is. Engineering degrees are very valuable - the job market is actually fairly tight where I work, and my company is being fairly aggressive in recruiting. There is quite possibly a state school with a good engineering program, which I would definitely recommend if there is and you are interested. Private schools are nice, but they're expensive... look at your state's schools first to see if there are any good options.

I'm not sure going $500,000 dollars in debt is ever a good idea.
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby ++$_ » Thu Dec 09, 2010 6:48 pm UTC

savanik wrote:Finally, if I were a senior looking at college, I would first and foremost question the economics of going to college. There's a large market oversupply of college graduates right now, so demand and thus wages for college degrees is falling, while tuition costs are skyrocketing. Is it really a good idea to be burdened with a half a million dollars in debt to get a Master's degree from Harvard and be highly competitive in the job market?
This is quite frankly terrible advice.

First of all, why would you take 10 years to get your master's degree? (Harvard tuition, including room and board, comes to $50,000 or so.)

Why would you pay for your education purely through loans, when Harvard provides extremely generous financial aid without any loans at all?

It is literally impossible to be 500,000 dollars in debt as a result of a Harvard master's degree (unless you don't apply for financial aid and take 10 years to do it).

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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby nitePhyyre » Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:08 pm UTC

QuiteJaughty wrote:- Expand public university system

I disagree with this. There should be no public Uni at all. Uni is called higher learning for a reason. Now I know what you are thinking, if people want a good job with decent pay they need to go to Uni. I think that is the problem though. By the time you are done high school, you should be able to get a good job. If high school is lacking in the quality education needed to get a job, the solution is to fix K-12, not expand Uni.

QuiteJaughty wrote:-Monthly forum to every household
This is a sort of secondary idea, and barely feasible, but one which I'm attracted to nonetheless. The idea would be to establish a board of people who would ask for submissions from anyone in the U.S., asking for debate and opinion on any topic. Those which are the best-reasoned and most pertinent, from any viewpoint, are compiled and published monthly. A conservative estimate for the cost would be about a 500 million a month for each monthly delivery, a pamphlet delivered to every household. Sure, it seems like a throwaway, but ideally, if even a quarter of those households skim one or two articles, the environment of understanding begins to change.

I think 500 million is way too much. Photo copies cost 5 cents a page, and that is with Bureau en Gros making a profit on the copies, the government in massive scale doing it for non profit would make the per page cost even lower. Oh and the government already pays postal workers, so costs wouldn't go up much from delivery either.
That being said, I don't think pamphlets are the right idea. When I was a kid Canada had these "Moment of Our Heritage" commercials. They were basically little clips of history show casing an uplifting story, or dark aspects of our past. I think an expansion of this idea would reach more eyeballs than a pamphlet.
QuiteJaughty wrote:-Overhaul secondary system
The secondary educational system is where children shape their very personalities and character, and where a love of learning is inspired. Yet at this time, the system is geared to rote-learning and having kids wallow in school learning to barely read and write and do math.

I think primary education has a much larger role in shaping attitudes about education than secondary. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that secondary does NOT play ANY role in shaping views about education and learning.
QuiteJaughty wrote:+ Replace Teachers
Teachers are the basis of the system and they’re failing. Teaching is currently a second-rate profession that is often a last resort for those out of college who can’t get jobs. There is a necessity here to set up new system for teaching teachers and requiring a rigorous set of double majors to both be able to teach and know the subject in-depth. The recommendation is a master’s degree, though perhaps a bit unfeasible. Tenure, most importantly, needs to be completely reformed (not eliminated), and administration needs to be tightened in monitoring and evaluating teachers.

How does tenure work? Is it through the teacher's union, or is it just every school has its own tenure rules? In college, my classmate and I started a petition to get a teacher fired. We did not put a lot of effort into the petition, and we got more names on the list than this teacher had students. Alumni were coming into the school for the sole purpose of signing the petition. We have no idea how alumni even heard about it. When we brought it to the administration we were told that unless the teacher molests a student, the administration's hands were tied. This is not how things should be.
QuiteJaughty wrote:+ Get rid of grades for an intra-school merit system
Grades have geared even the most intelligent students to simply memorize by rote to get into university. Even universities are now have trouble differentiating between the students who have simply memorized and tutored their way through high school and into college and students who have an actual passion for learning (an ever smaller minority). By removing grades and instead setting up an intra-school merit system, there is less of a college focus and more of a focus on the material. Furthermore, this should be incorporated into extracurriculars; if a student is doing well, they’ll be allowed to play. If they’re not, they will be pulled out of competition or required to do extra work.
I don't know what you mean. What is an intra-school merit system? Grades standardized between schools?
QuiteJaughty wrote: + Flexible movement through grades
There shouldn’t be a simple 1-12 setup. Students do not mature at the same rate; some come to school with more knowledge, some learn more quickly. Learning needs to be far more specialized, with smaller class sizes and a flexibility in changing grades. If a student has the main concept of a class nailed, they should be able to move on. This is more evident for lower grades than higher ones.

Agreed. The way grades are currently set up show just how much the education system is not actually for learning and is just a glorified babysitter service. Learning is so patently obviously not a one size fits all proposition. Another example, we know that people learn by 3 basic methods, audio, visual, or tactile. How is this most basic fact about learning reflected in our learning institutions? It's not.
Yakk wrote:The number of elementary and high school teachers a population needs is huge. All of these plans to generate "elite teachers" never seem to look at that problem.

Each person in the nation spends ages 5 to 18 or so in elementary/secondary school. They live an average of 80 years. That's 14 years of life out of 80, or 17.5%.

At a 20:1 student:teacher ratio (teachers who spend all of their time teaching don't have time to evaluate students or prepare lesson plans, so this is a classroom ratio closer to 30:1), that means at any one time 0.875% of the population needs be teaching, roughly.

Now, a teacher who graduates at age 26 with qualifications, and works solid until age 66, has spent 40 years teaching -- or half of their life. So we need 1.75% of the population to be career-teachers -- probably closer to 2.5%, given that people change careers, retire early, or take longer to get into the career than expected.

Now suppose you want to pay high school teachers like the average holder of a professional degree (double major, masters, etc). That is 70k per year.

Add 50% for overhead (schools are not cheap), and we get:
70k * 2.5% * 150% = 2,625$ for every man, woman and child in the USA.

The US GDP per capita is about 45000$. So this works out to 5.8% of US GDP spent on primary and secondary education.

The US currently spends $972 billion on education. The current population estimate is 310,879,000. So that's ~3145.91 per person. Is that good enough?

That being said, I don't think brute force throwing money at the situation is the solution. We need some out of the box thinking. For instance, if we created a whole line of history movies or video games we could probably eliminate the majority of history teachers, while giving a more elaborate and complete history education. Not saying this is the best idea, I'm just saying there are ways to provide a better learning experience without needing to spend boat loads of money.

Most importantly, education hasn't changed all that much in the past century. We should really do a study on how children learn and the education system, should reflect that reality.
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby Роберт » Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:29 pm UTC

++$_ wrote:
savanik wrote:Finally, if I were a senior looking at college, I would first and foremost question the economics of going to college. There's a large market oversupply of college graduates right now, so demand and thus wages for college degrees is falling, while tuition costs are skyrocketing. Is it really a good idea to be burdened with a half a million dollars in debt to get a Master's degree from Harvard and be highly competitive in the job market?
This is quite frankly terrible advice.

First of all, why would you take 10 years to get your master's degree? (Harvard tuition, including room and board, comes to $50,000 or so.)

Why would you pay for your education purely through loans, when Harvard provides extremely generous financial aid without any loans at all?

It is literally impossible to be 500,000 dollars in debt as a result of a Harvard master's degree (unless you don't apply for financial aid and take 10 years to do it).

From http://www.finaid.org/savings/tuition-inflation.phtml
A good rule of thumb is that tuition rates will increase at about twice the general inflation rate. During any 17-year period from 1958 to 2001, the average annual tuition inflation rate was between 6% and 9%, ranging from 1.2 times general inflation to 2.1 times general inflation. On average, tuition tends to increase about 8% per year.

From Havard's site estimating undergrad cost
http://www.admissions.college.harvard.e ... /cost.html
Total billed and unbilled costs $53,950 - $56,750

In addition, health insurance coverage is required at a cost of $1,788 unless the students is covered under the family's health plan.


Grad school costs http://www.gse.harvard.edu/admissions/f ... index.html
Standard Full-Time Ed.M. Budget for the 2010-2011 Academic Year (9 months)
...
Total Ed.M. Student Budget
$59,680
...
Tuition costs are subject to change and are determined each year. Please be aware that future tuition costs, fees and standard student budget amounts may differ from year to year. Updated figures will be published on this website and in future editions of the Financing Your Education guide, which is updated on a yearly basis.



So, let's say it takes 4 years for undergrad and 2 years for the master's.
Undergrad $55,000
Grad $60,000
Let's use a base inflation of 7%. (I'm not good at predicting, but this seems reasonable. Perhaps conservative with the weakening dollar, but some of the costs are not tuition costs, so I think it should balance out.)

4 Years of undergrad ~ $244,000
2 Years of grad ~ $163,000

Total is around $407,000 for six years.

$500,000 is a pretty good approximation, eh?

EDIT: That's if you started at Harvard last fall, BTW.
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby nitePhyyre » Thu Dec 09, 2010 8:00 pm UTC

It also doesn't include food, clothing, textbooks, etc.
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby Роберт » Thu Dec 09, 2010 8:06 pm UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:It also doesn't include food, clothing, textbooks, etc.

It does, actually.
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby Yakk » Thu Dec 09, 2010 8:28 pm UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:The US currently spends $972 billion on education. The current population estimate is 310,879,000. So that's ~3145.91 per person. Is that good enough?

Sure. But I didn't include universities in my costs. You did. :)
That being said, I don't think brute force throwing money at the situation is the solution. We need some out of the box thinking. For instance, if we created a whole line of history movies or video games we could probably eliminate the majority of history teachers, while giving a more elaborate and complete history education. Not saying this is the best idea, I'm just saying there are ways to provide a better learning experience without needing to spend boat loads of money.

Suppose you are aiming for low-end hollywood production costs. 10 million dollars per 2 hour movie.

We want each student to get 4 hours of history education per week for, say, 10 years. 40 weeks a year, because it is a round number.

40*4*10 = 1600 hours, over 2 is 800.

800 times 10 million dollars is 8 billion dollars.

We still need supervision of these students, and we need evaluation of the students. That will easily cost 1/2 of the current education costs.

310 million people, of which 1/8 are undergoing education at any one time, is roughly 39 million kids. Each kid requires 80 less hours of history-teacher-time per year, at 20:1 student hour:teacher hour ratio is 4 hours of teacher time saved each student, or 156 million hours.

At 50$ per teacher hour saved that is 7.8 billion dollars per year saved, enough to re-record every single history movie every single year.

Note that the above presumes that you have access to sufficient "efficient" viewing areas, and that these educational films are as good as half-a-teacher (with the other half being a real teacher).

Also note that this relies heavily on economies of scale. A pilot project below large-state level would be incredibly inefficient. Also note that this is "low-hollywood" level of production -- not glossy-hollywood. It also doesn't cover quality control on the resulting films.
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby ++$_ » Thu Dec 09, 2010 9:09 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:So, let's say it takes 4 years for undergrad and 2 years for the master's.
Undergrad $55,000
Grad $60,000
Let's use a base inflation of 7%. (I'm not good at predicting, but this seems reasonable. Perhaps conservative with the weakening dollar, but some of the costs are not tuition costs, so I think it should balance out.)

4 Years of undergrad ~ $244,000
2 Years of grad ~ $163,000

Total is around $407,000 for six years.

$500,000 is a pretty good approximation, eh?

EDIT: That's if you started at Harvard last fall, BTW.
Yes, if you count "personal expenses," health insurance, and travel expenses as "going into debt to pay for college," and you take 2 years to get your master's degree (in the world I come from, it takes 1 year, but maybe that's not true in all fields), and you don't do any work while in college or grad school, AND (the biggest assumption) you get zero financial aid from anyone (neither your parents, nor Harvard despite it providing some of the most generous financial aid of any school, nor scholarships), then it still doesn't get you to $500,000 dollars of debt. I completely stand by what I said.

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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby Роберт » Thu Dec 09, 2010 9:32 pm UTC

++$_ wrote:I completely stand by what I said.

++$ wrote:First of all, why would you take 10 years to get your master's degree? (Harvard tuition, including room and board, comes to $50,000 or so.)

So are you saying that you don't believe there will be any inflation, then? You honestly think that $500,000 would cover 10 years of tuition, room, and board at Harvard? Starting in 2011?

Health insurance is required for Massachusetts college students, so it's fair to include that in the cost of attending college, no? In fact, all those costs were things that Harvard thought should count as the cost of attending... if they count it, why don't you?

It takes one year to get a master's? Really?

Because I was under the impression that it generally takes two additional years.
http://universitiesandcolleges.org/how- ... rs-degree/
Generally it takes full time graduate students 2-3 years to earn a master’s degree[...] assuming they go for the same subject that they hold an undergrad degree in.


Seriously, you "stand completely by what you said"? How is what you said any more reasonable that what you were objecting to?
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby ++$_ » Thu Dec 09, 2010 9:47 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:It takes one year to get a master's? Really?

Because I was under the impression that it generally takes two additional years.
http://universitiesandcolleges.org/how- ... rs-degree/
Generally it takes full time graduate students 2-3 years to earn a master’s degree[...] assuming they go for the same subject that they hold an undergrad degree in.
That is quite interesting. I didn't realize that this was the case, because most of the people I know with master's degrees got them in one year. But after doing some Googling, it seems like the length of time varies greatly by student, by subject, and by program. So yeah, I suppose it could definitely take you 2-3 years to get a master's degree in some subjects. (My worldview has just been turned upside down....)
Seriously, you "stand completely by what you said"? How is what you said any more reasonable that what you were objecting to?
All right, everything except the bit about it being 10 years worth of school. That was glib and incorrect. As you pointed out, it's more like 7-ish years if you count tuition inflation. It's still ridiculous to suppose that you're going to Harvard as an undergrad and not getting financial aid from someone, though.

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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby Роберт » Thu Dec 09, 2010 10:56 pm UTC

++$_ wrote:It's still ridiculous to suppose that you're going to Harvard as an undergrad and not getting financial aid from someone, though.

That's true. It's not likely someone would go on loans only. So realistically, people won't have half a million in debt from Harvard.

So the original point you objected to was certainly an exaggeration. I still makes sense to ask the question: how much is going to X college likely to cost? How much is going to Y college likely to cost? How much is the degree likely to help? How much would entering the workforce earlier help?

In most cases, my guess is you'll probably find that either a B.S or master's makes sense, but it may not, depending on the degree etc. I put a plug in for the STEM fields. :)
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby stevey_frac » Thu Dec 09, 2010 11:22 pm UTC

One of the biggest problems with the teaching field, IMHO, is that the teaching field is dominated by women with arts degrees, at least in my area.

It wasn't until the end of high school that I had any exposure to teacher who had degrees in any kind of a science field, and even then, only a spattering of them were men.

In my experience, this group will have the tendancy of nurturing the students most that are similar to them, and students will more easily relate and learn from a teacher who thinks more like them. This I believe creates a tendancy to have 'artsy' students excel in the earlier grades.

Similarly, because of the overwhelming number of women who teach in comparison to men, especially at the younger grades, I believe that boys are at a disadvantage. Men are now the minority in university degree earners, and I read an article in McLeans the other day that professional women under 30 earn more then their male counterparts.

So, clearly, women are outperforming men academically and in real life at this point, and clearly, the school system must be at least in part to blame.

I think we need to encourage both men, and those with science degrees to teach. I believe we as a society would be better for it.

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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby The EGE » Fri Dec 10, 2010 12:53 am UTC

stevey_frac wrote:Similarly, because of the overwhelming number of women who teach in comparison to men, especially at the younger grades, I believe that boys are at a disadvantage. Men are now the minority in university degree earners, and I read an article in McLeans the other day that professional women under 30 earn more then their male counterparts.


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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby stevey_frac » Fri Dec 10, 2010 1:55 am UTC

So basically, when women were under-performing compared to men in degrees earned and salary, that was sexism and we had to fight it as a culture, but now that the roles are reversed, you mock it?

That seems about par for the course somehow...

Well I guess you think women needed all that help, being the weaker sex and all? But not men.. Obviously? No matter how you cut it, I don't think your mockery of the situation is anything other then a double standard, which is a Bad Thing(tm).

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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:04 am UTC

The roles are not reversed. You forgot the part where the woman who earns more than the man is unmarried, has no children, and lives in a major metropolitan area. That's.. kinda an important thing to mention, as when you're talking about Professional Women in the Under 30 crowd, there's.. quite a lot of them who are married, and quite a few with a kid or two. And then, of course, there's a crapton of women in professional fields that do not live in major metropolitan areas. So she has to live in a city and (apparently) not be all that concerned with family life on top of a professional career.

So yes, you are right in that there is a segment of the female population that out-earns men in a similar group. Given that the facts of living in a major metropolitan area, no children and being unmarried were singled out, I am only left to assume that in the male group, being married, having a kid, or living in a somewhat rural area with a professional career doesn't really matter when compared to other men within the same age group with a different arrangement of those factors.

So it's not quite the same as comparing all of X to blue, left-handed, red-headed and colorblind Y, it's.. kinda a misleading thing to say.
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby stevey_frac » Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:20 am UTC

Except this study concluded that this applied in 147 of the largest 150 cities. That's a pile of cities... I'd be willing to bet that was a significant percentage of the population. It also neglects the fact that the difference is extreme in some cases, such as 17% wage gap in New York, or 15% in San Diego. You also neglected to mention that the study concluded that the difference was mostly due to education. So, this is still a serious problem, and the result of a systemic issue. It'll take a while, but I suspect the overwhelming number of degrees that women are earning compared to men, is going to slowly up that age limit until women on average make more then men. The trend is there, more women are earning degrees then men, and women who are using them are earning more as a result. That's a systemic issue we should address.

In any case, mocking the situation is still a double standard.

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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby QuiteJaughty » Fri Dec 10, 2010 4:11 am UTC

Thank you all for the numerous responses, in both support and negation. I'll try and respond in order to everyone. You'll have to forgive me, I don't respond to everything.

bobjoesmith wrote:IF you had studied your butt off, taken all your time and invested it in studying, are truly brilliant and get outbid by someone who is... passionate? Im sorry, i like your idea that love of learning is good, but it takes more than a passionate room of people to send lance armstrong (im just kidding, i know its neil armstrong) to the moon. You could cite passionate people who achieved great things, but those are flukes. 99% of ur CEO's as well as most of your dictators and conquerors were eight measures of competition to two measures of passion.

The simplest question is would you let a passionate surgeon do heart surgery on you even if he failed med school? grades are there measure progress: you can memorize things, but if you are passionate why aren't you memorizing? if you are less smart, then it would be unfair to the smarter kids to give up their position to let you in because then who would be held back?

I'm afraid you've misinterpreted me, or I've failed in communicating my point. I want the smarter guy getting the job, without a doubt. But I want those who are intelligent to not just study for the job; I want people to study because they love learning. Do you want the surgeon who will just cut you open and do it right, or the one who will cut you open, do it right, and feel absolutely horrible about you and himself if he does it wrong. You're pointing out that most great people are produced by competition as opposed to passion; I'd point out that you are being short-sighted. What about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr? Ghandi? They become more numerous as time goes backwards. THAT isn't a fluke. That is, sadly, the product of competition. We have good workers, competitors, people who will produce the best. But where are those leaders with vision for something greater than themselves? But I've waxed broad and philosophical. My point is, I--and I don't believe anyone else--wants those people produced by just competition. We want the people with passion, with desire.
They both spent all their time studying. But one went out of her way to pad her application with clubs and things that meant nothing to her. The other girl, on the other hand, has only intangibles to speak of--the fact that she is well-read, has delved more into the topics she's passionate about than anyone else, and can only even begin to communicate them in two measly college essays. Why is THAT okay?

++$_ wrote:I would suggest you go to university before you decide whether or not the university system is working properly. It works an awful lot better than you seem to think, especially at the top universities. Though there is an element of truth in a lot of the things you're saying

Let me clarify: Universities are wonderful--if you get in. But what they've done to the high school system is fostered an unhealthy competition which has destroyed the meaning of education and sabotaged themselves. They have created an environment of working for the grade and the job and degree as opposed to wanting to learn. University was derived from Universality, the desire to produce those well-rounded individuals. Yet by fostering this competition, they've hurt the pool they're pulling from. Their "best" applicants, the "most-qualified," are hordes of automatons who did what they were "supposed to." This sounds immature, cynical, even cliche--but it's true. The stereotype holds a grain of truth.
I mentioned her desire to go to Harvard only as an example, AND I made sure to qualify her desire, stemming from the fact that she'd spent summers there. And people as qualified as she is, even if she applied to every single Ivy League school and then some, still often get rejected from EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL. Is that fair? And don't tell me life isn't fair. I don't think there is anything wrong with falling in love with a school. I know just as many kids who fell in love with Tulane (more, in fact) than fell in love with Harvard. But the point stands: You should be able to achieve the grades and be passionate and get to the school you want. They say you could get rid of the entering classes of every Ivy League school and let in the next top crop of applicants without a drop in the level of intelligence. But could you do with the passion level, with the absolute dedication those just as brilliant but less standard kids?

++$_ wrote:Anyway, first of all, don't be so sure. Admissions officers are a lot more competent than you seem to think, and they are pretty good at recognizing passionate people. They are not very impressed by an ACT score of 35 as a freshman, because they know they could fill their entire class with people who got ACT scores of 35 as freshmen. It's much more important to them to fill their class with passionate, interesting people.

I trust very much in admissions officers. But being a debator, I know how well bullshit can fly through even the best filters. That, perhaps, can never be changed though, so I won't argue it.

++$_ wrote:Second, what happens when you strip away your personal biases? Girl No. 2 is probably passionately interested in something, too. She is probably not doing all of those things just because she can. Have you tried to find out?

Actually, I have. I bring her up only because I know her well enough that I won't be slandering her. We've been in homeroom together for the past four years, and been in class together for the past seven. She was even in my homecoming group last year. I know she has a passing interest in botany. That is, however, all there is to speak of. Is it a surprise when I say she's applying pre-med? Not to say pre-med is a bad thing (hell, that's what I'm doing), but there's the repeated stereotype again.
Concerning your point about AP classes, I completely agree. I hate the idea of AP classes, in working to test your knowledge about a subject as opposed to actually testing it. I've taken hordes of AP exams, because they are essentially required after an AP class and can save you money in college. And I've gotten fives on all of them. But I would not tell you that I know anything about calculus past names and basic derivatives (though we're learning partial derivatives now--fun stuff!) And there are great AP classes at my school. Our teachers regularly teach beyond the test, and not to the test. But you don't find that at every school. Why else would the curves for a five, supposedly portraying exemplary knowledge, be at a sixty and seventy percent? That's not right.

Let me clarify my point on an intra-school merit system. My point is, I don't want grades to be a measure of success. I don't want kids going through high school thinking "Well, I gotta keep my GPA up for colleges." I want colleges to not even SEE grades. I want them to be non-existent. Get rid of those, and kids are able to take risks. The merit system? Do well in a class, you're granted rewards. Perhaps you don't have to show up to class, perhaps you're more allowed to compete in sports, etc. Don't do well in class? Kitchen duty, cleaning duty, whatever. You're offered the incentive to do well, and not take classes where you're busting your ass if you don't like it and just doing it for college. How we'd indicate merit to colleges? That's... a bit harder.

Zcorp wrote:Its a nice dream that has been indoctrinated into you but its not true. We have no data to suggest that we are all more creative as a country or that our educational system fosters that in our populace. We are falling behind in every subject, including areas related to creative problem solving and critical thinking. You can look to various PISA scores or cross cultural comparisons, I believe the article just posted in the News section of this site from the NY times covers the problem as well.

Being dismissive is unhelpful; it's not necessarily untrue, it's simply not quantifiable. What do I know is what my mother noted to me when I was younger. As background, my parents are foreign but highly educated immigrants. As I asked her for help with an assignment, she marveled "This country is incredible. They don't just teach you what we learned, they teach you how to think." To say the least, our educational system IS fundamentally different, if not necessarily better. There is, after all, a reason immigrants flock to the U.S. on education visas. But you pointed out that we're falling behind even in creative problem solving and critical thinking. Why? Because we're taught to the test. Why is physics such a pain in the ass around here? For some, it's just taking a bunch of numbers and plugging them in. But put a few extraneous numbers in and kids get lost. They aren't looking for understand, they are looking for the answer, and that gets us nowhere.

Zcorp wrote:But generally the point is we need to create a system where it is socially reinforced to learn, where all students feel like they can succeed, where all teachers feel like all the students can succeed, where the students are bonded with each other and the teachers, where the students have great educational tools and resources, where individual learning and temperament preferences can be addressed and where we create not just good workers but also good global citizens.

Thank you, yes! This is exactly what I'm talking about! I want there to be that sense of a Renaissance or Enlightenment, the idea that there is a social desire for progress and learning and education and reason.

savanik wrote:Second, a word of warning. Ten years from now, none of this is going to seem nearly as important as it does right now. Right now, it really, really matters, but once you get out in the world, I think you'll find out that most of life's problems can be divided into two categories:

1. The problems you can directly address and make a large difference in. Necessarily, these problems are not broad or sweeping in scope. For example, teaching your own kid what's so cool about science, or leading a local hackerspace or other learning-oriented group. This will do nothing to help students the next state over, but you can have an individual, measurable difference and they can be significantly rewarding.

2. Systemic problems. Such as teachers' unions fixing the system so that lower-scoring teachers can't be fired, or curriculum being determined by the school board voting on creationism. The fact is, so many people have a say in this your voice is drowned out by the masses. You can hit these topics with all the passion and intelligence you can muster up and you won't even make a dent, short of actually getting elected to the position that makes the decision, and if it's a decision that'll be voted on, even that won't work. Learn to live with it or work around it.

Even Reps in the House of Representatives are frustrated by the fact that there's just too many people running around for any of them to actually make a meaningful difference. That's why they stick together in huge, monolithic voting blocs - every Rep has their own ideas about how things should be being done, but none of them can make a difference if they act as individuals, and if they try, they'll be instantly voted out of office by their hundreds of thousands of constituents.

Finally, if I were a senior looking at college, I would first and foremost question the economics of going to college. There's a large market oversupply of college graduates right now, so demand and thus wages for college degrees is falling, while tuition costs are skyrocketing. Is it really a good idea to be burdened with a half a million dollars in debt to get a Master's degree from Harvard and be highly competitive in the job market?

Let me put that in some other ways to be clear: $500,000.00 in debt coming out of Harvard with a Master's Degree. That's four large houses in the Midwest, or one on either coast. 10 luxury cars. Enough money for a family of four to live comfortably for nearly a decade. And it all has to get paid back eventually. Even if you came straight out of college with a 6-figure income, it would STILL take you 5 years to pay it back, if you did nothing other than pay back the debt.

It still may be a good option - I benefited greatly from my time in college. It was a really good experience. I went to a really cheap college (Only $10k a year), but I'm still paying off the debt, and some days it feels like I'll never finish that. It's a question to consider.


Oh goodness. I've thought about losing this as a passion. I'm horrified by the thought, and I hope I don't. But, there's no telling.
You're definitely right about being a small voice. I've thought about that a lot, and I think I end up sounding a lot like Frederick the Great (don't you love these Intro to Euro references?) when I offer my solution. I want to be put in a position of power where I can single-handedly enact that change without interference. To be a bit cynical, I've found that fame and fortune are what make people listen, and I do intend to pursue both. Perhaps a bit circuitous, but I don't intend to be another lost idealist.
I thank you for your concern about college. You're definitely right about how expensive it can be. And for all my trumpeting, you might be surprised to learn that I am (most likely) going to University of Illinois in Chicago. For those who don't know, it's a dirt cheap school, and I'll be attending essentially for free just because of my ACT score and National Merit and all those stupid little trinkets. However, in terms of potentially going to a more expensive school (fingers-crossed), I'm fortunate enough to have a relatively with family and a career path in mind that will pay that off in spades. I'm thinking, however, my debt may escalate over 500,000 if my plans do pan out. Haha, we'll see.

Yakk wrote: Are you sure they don't desire to learn? Maybe they both desire the status, and desire to learn, but the status-building activities more than satisfy their desire to learn.

When I hear someone say, "I'm taking this class for college," I'm PRETTY sure they don't really desire to learn. Wild guess though. And I'm not saying that there aren't many who desire to learn. But how often is that squashed by the desire to get into a good school? Take AP Psyche instead of ceramics, or AP Java instead of Calc, because they're guaranteed A's. Examples, again, but still a valid point.

Yakk wrote:What you describe about those times is generally what the elite experienced. While the elite grew, most of of the population wasn't living the "love of learning". They where trying to get their physical state of being to a tolerable level. Now, the rich elites did manage to write more of the books and set the narrative, because that is what educated elites do. But be careful with your romance with history.

Oh, I'm careful. He's my calculated assumption: We've worked hard to bridge the divide between classes. There is no longer a legally stratified class system. The next wave of learning is going to sweep through the middle class, where it belongs.

Yakk wrote:Also be careful with your blind nationalism. You aren't unique. You are describing a myth.

I'm describing a fact from experience. This is not nationalism, I'm only pointing out how the U.S. works, and what I've gleaned from more than my fair share of friends at international schools. Admittedly, Western European schools are perhaps a bit similar, but hit the Middle East or East Asia and you've got a completely different mentality.

Also, I'd ask that you either elaborate on your points or refrain from saying anything. I'd rather not have my English insulted, thank you very much.

LaserGuy wrote:I think secondary education is much too late, to be honest. I would start at primary level--or earlier, if possible.

I'm sorry, I misspoke. And it clearly threw a lot of people off. My bad. Primary education is definitely what I meant.

LaserGuy wrote: I would start by eliminating multiple choice testing entirely, which reinforces rote memorization more than anything else, and, in my opinion, is only used because it is efficient to mark it.

This is genius. I just added this to my list, thank you so much! Though this may screw me over--I am the master of multiple choice tests. Then again, I guess anyone is who has an iota of intelligence.

nitePhyyre wrote:That being said, I don't think pamphlets are the right idea. When I was a kid Canada had these "Moment of Our Heritage" commercials. They were basically little clips of history show casing an uplifting story, or dark aspects of our past. I think an expansion of this idea would reach more eyeballs than a pamphlet.

This is a lovely idea. I'm still a proponent of the pamphlet because it allows for a degree of substance, but I think there should be some swarm to the media. We'll replace tea party commercials with ads for reason and reading. Delightful!

nitePhyyre wrote:That being said, I don't think brute force throwing money at the situation is the solution. We need some out of the box thinking. For instance, if we created a whole line of history movies or video games we could probably eliminate the majority of history teachers, while giving a more elaborate and complete history education. Not saying this is the best idea, I'm just saying there are ways to provide a better learning experience without needing to spend boat loads of money.
Emphasis added by me.
This is actually really genius, and I can throw my support behind it know it works. My brother is a bit dim when it comes to history (mathematical genius though, don't get me wrong). What he loves most is video games though. I got him hooked on Age of Empires II a while back, and after a month, he knew everything there was to know about Saladin because he became so enthralled by him. What's more, he also had a passing knowledge of Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, and a handful of other heroes. The trick is making not a game about history, but a history-based game.

stevey-frac wrote:I think we need to encourage both men, and those with science degrees to teach. I believe we as a society would be better for it.

Agreed, concerning the higher degrees. Few teachers at my school have a degree below a master's, and it's noticeable when they do. We need to make teaching an honorable job. In Japan, it's a tough career path, similar to pre-med, and they're that much better for it. We need to do the same.

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The EGE
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Re: Education, A Love of Learning, and The Current System

Postby The EGE » Fri Dec 10, 2010 4:14 am UTC

There's always going to be someone in the minority. For pretty much the entirety of history, women have earned less than men. For most of that time, it has been systemic, deliberate sexism. the pendulum has finally started to swing, and it may or may not have passed the middle point. That's not inherently a bad thing. Humanity tends to be a bit underdamped; that pendulum is going to swing a bit.

There's no need to complain just because it didn't stop exactly at 50%. So what if women are earning more degrees and making more money? I do not see the systemic discrimination, the vast unspoken agreement to keep the men down.

I do not mock inequality. I mock that you treat non-malicious and in all probability non-permanent inequality and attempt to set it equal to malicious, system, long-term inequality, and then add a big fluffy dollop of sexism on top.

It's not 'how do we prevent one group from being ahead in a few measures' that's the real issue here. It's 'how do we create an educational system that gives everyone a quality and opportunity-equalized education, regardless of whether they stand or sit to pee'.
sillybear25 wrote:But it's NPH, so it's creepy in the best possible way.

Shivahn wrote:I'm in your abstractions, burning your notions of masculinity.


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