To see what is wrong, one needs an example of what is good and right. Using my education at St. Martins Episcopal School in Metairie as the good and right example shines a bright light on what we’re doing wrong. A good education allows people to teach themselves and encourages them to do just that. It’s the giving a fish vs teaching a person to fish metaphor.
Society has taken the stance that College is the time for youth to explore. This is wrong. That time is middle and high school, and it needs support and supervision in small groups both at school and at home. This is one driver for the success of the low student to teacher ratio systems.
Society has taken the stance that such education should be measured by standardized tests. This is wrong. Firstly, we know from IQ test studies that standardized tests discriminate across cultural and ethnic boundaries. Secondly, the efficacy of good teaching is measured in the societal results by college admissions, employment, and crime rates. Of all our investments, high school educations arguably have the highest impact on individual societal performance in terms of further education, employment, and criminality. Yes, some agreement and perhaps measure of potential efficacy of curriculum and attainment must occur, but the focus needs to be on identification of students in need of help and of the ability of the curriculum to achieve admission to further education, employment, and enfranchisement of those about to be voting citizens. We are failing at this task.
Society has taken the stance that extracurricular activities, most notably sports, most notably soccer, are on a par with or more important than education. This is foolhardy in the extreme. If parents spent as much energy and time focused on their children’s education as they do on their own vicarious reliving of the past through sports and other frequent extracurricular activities, dramatic improvement could occur. Further, we need to work our systems and wage structures so that the parents can actually be part of their children’s education as opposed to holding two jobs to make ends meet.
We think that spending more on schools will achieve better results. This is wrong. Providing better education provides better results, and money is required to support better outcomes. We should be measuring our expenditures by how much is spent on the teachers and their needs as compared with everything else, including administration and sports. The entire structure needs to be set up to support teaching. Beautiful buildings (and high maintenance costs) and the like need to be held in check. Administrative costs need to be held in check, and laws need to be passed to limit the litigious nature of parents and their darling children. Likewise, technology which expires every 5 years or so, should not make up a huge amount of the budget. If physical books are more cost effective then they should be used, and re-used. Books do not become obsolete and unsupported, you see. And they don’t get viruses and malware.
These are all ancient concepts. This is how Aristotle taught, how Socrates taught, how Moses and Laban solved a similar problem, and indeed how Jesus taught with a student to teacher ratio of 12:1. Even with that, there was one bad apple in the bunch.