Friday, June 15, 2018

Scouting vs. Public Education

Tyler Cowen makes a very concise statement of a view I have argued for here before:
I would do everything possible to move away from having all of the children belong to the exact same age group. The Boy Scouts are a better model here than “the 7th grade.”


G. Verloren said...

I think focusing in on age specifically and exclusively is a mistake, in that it condenses and oversimplies the issue, without actually getting to the heart of it.

Plenty of school systems around the globe sort students by age and still see solid results. It's a useful way to provide a standardized, generalized structure for teaching without having to custom tailor things for every single individual.

That said, what other countries do much better than we do is identify students for whom that generalized sorting isn't sufficient, and then give them specialized attention to suit specialized needs.

The trick is striking a balance. No one has the resources to custom tailor each and every student's learning programs or regimens, so a certain amount of standization is necessary to make the available resources stretch to serve everyone's needs efficienty and effectively. But at the same time, being perceptive enough and flexible enough to identify where the standardized models break down, and then shift to other more specialized models as appropriate, is absolutely vital.

It's all about having a broad enough toolkit, and the wisdom to know when to change tools to best suit the job at hand. You can't build a house with just a hammer, and you can't educate people with just one approach.

pootrsox said...

My daughter had the great good fortune to win a seat in the Integrated Day program in North Haven CT. It was then set up as K-1-2, 3-4, 5-6. And there were occasions when there was a blending of those divisions.

Totally individual progress, non-graded. Study was integrated: If the topic was China, then they learned geography, history, read and wrote, figured out recipes (math and science) and cooked them, and made a presentation to other classes and their families.

Parents did volunteer in the classes. When my daughter was in her 3rd year of K-1-2, I went in to help one day. One of her classmates, also 3rd year, asked me to read to him from the book he was using for his research. "I don't read yet," he said totally without embarrassment. (He had a learning disability.) I think he spent 4 years in K-1-2, but he wasn't the only one to take an extra year. It never appeared as "being held back"; it was "Hasn't finished learning everything yet."

My daughter did her first research paper in kindergarten. She was not yet reading. Parent volunteers read her books about dinosaurs. Then she dictated her facts, which parents wrote down, and then she illustrated it.

Did it work? I think so. She has been an independent learner and creative and critical thinker and problem solver since then. She graduated 10th of 271 from a highly competitive suburban high school, and was offered partial academic scholarships by Bryn Mawr and Skidmore as well as several less competitive schools.

Would she have done as well in a traditional classroom environment, with basal readers rather than independent reading choices... with a mandated "learn this now, learn it this way" curriculum? I do not think so.

Best of all, she *likes* to learn things-- in fact, I'd say she loves learning. Although she was never particularly strong in math, when she took the required statistics course in college she was engaged enough to take a second semester of statistics.

Integrated Day cost the school district no more than traditional classrooms-- the parents whose kids were in those traditional classrooms policed the budget down to pennies expended, determined to find "proof" that ID got special treatment.

So it *can* be done in US public schools. But it takes commitment on the part of parents and the school district.