It seems that most of the problems that we face, including political, personal, economic, social, cultural, and even health, comes down to a lack of education. We often hear the term “If people understood” things would be different. Over the weekend it got me thinking about what education was, what it is, and what can it be.
For much of history, education was made up of several components that included family, faith, community and apprenticeship and was often a component of the church. Even in the Old Testament, Moses is referred to as “Teacher”. The three “R’s” where actually taught at home but, not everyone’s parents had an equal understanding, so a few hundred years ago they were integrated into the school curriculum. Those who did not attend church were educated at home and even the wealthy would have private tutors come in to supplement their child’s education. In his book The Thomas Jefferson Education, Oliver DeMille talks about how the education of our founding fathers was primarily focused on critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, and statesmanship, (or being a good citizen.) There as a strong focus on what is right and wrong, good and bad, and what society will or will not accept.
Today, things are different. For the most part, our educational system is dictated by predetermined platforms that are set forth by the government as being the foundational principles for our society. Basic math, science, reading, social studies (which groups geography, political studies, and history into one) are what most teachers focus on today.
In addition to the 3R’s, I personally think that we should have a stronger focus on the following:
1) Personal Finance. How would things be different if everyone understood interest rates and credit cards? I am not just talking about how to balance a check book, but having the ability to calculate AND UNDERSTAND compound interest. Furthermore, understanding taxes. We see them come out but how many of us truly understand where they go and how they are used?
2) History. I am not just talking about where and when, but why. Why did a person think the way they did and why did his/her actions cause particular events. Everything in life is interconnected and history can help us understand why we are where we are today.
3) Social Skills. This is a sensitive topic for many because there are many cultural components to it, but I think that the understanding of social skills is the great equalizer. I have heard people comment that they can’t get ahead because of particular limitations. I think that is BS. There are just too many people who came from adversity to make it big. It is also about understanding or even becoming a productive member of society. We as Planners try to establish an environment that will fuel this opportunity. We talk about front porches and back yard parties. But social interaction, conflict resolution, and critical thinking skills on a civilized level are things of the past. Classic books from people like Andrew Carnegie, Neapolitan Hill, Frank Betcher, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, James Allen, and Jonathon Edwards should be required reading before someone can graduate high school. Other more modern books from John Maxwell, Dave Ramsey, Oliver DeMille, Vince Pocente, Dr. David Swartz, and so many others are also important.
4) The Arts. I was shocked to hear that there are actually kids who have never heard a symphonic band or orchestra live. There is an unmistakable power that comes from a strong brass line, then realizing that the sound is not electronic in any way. (Rock on Velloise)! Looking at the details of a sculpture or painting and wondering what the artist was trying to convey, or even looking at the details of a classical building where the corbels were not just a detail, independently each was a piece of art. Back then, craftsmen were artisans, not just contractors.
Ultimately, I think our educational system teaches people how to do a job and not become a productive member of society. There are extracurricular that supplement it, but I believe that it should be an ingrained part of our education. Because of that, my wife and I have already decided that our kids will not attend a traditional public school. We have been looking at several different programs which we will still have to supplement with additional materials in a fun, hands on way, or we might just end up homeschooling and supplementing that with extracurricular activities for socialization.
What subjects do you think should be a stronger part of our modern education system? Do you think that if we as a nation change the way our kids are taught, that we can change the nation? Are you satisfied with public education in America? Why or why not?