17 June 2015 ~ 0 Comments

How Can We ACTUALLY Secure A Future For Education?

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By now, it’s no secret that the United States educational system is in dire straits. Schools across the country are understaffed and underfunded. From educational cuts in Louisiana that make post secondary even more unattainable to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s efforts in Albany to obtain a grant for education investment, the news is swimming with stories about how education is underfunded, understaffed, and underutilized.

The worst part is, lack of funding is actually the smallest of our concerns here – the solution for that, at least, is fairly simple, more money. Far more pressing is the fact that the majority of children seem disinterested in learning. Somewhere along the line, there’s a disconnect, and educators bogged down by archaic testing methods and ineffective teaching strategies pretty much have their hands tied.

And yet, no one seems to know how to solve the problem – everyone just keeps talking about it.

Educational expert Jordan Shapiro – a longtime proponent of technologically-assisted learning and an expert on methods such as educational gaming – is fed up with the whole situation. Something needs to change, he says, and that change needs to happen soon.

“The mantra is tired,”  Shapiro says of discussions on modern education. “Testing is bad. We’re stuck in a factory model of education. We need to focus on critical thinking and problem solving. Schools are late to the game when it comes to embracing technology. More making. More inquiry-based learning. More video games. Etc.”

“Certainly I agree with the message,” he continues. “But I’m beginning to feel like the repetition is self-serving and not leading toward real results.”

But what can educators do to get real results? How can we solve the myriad problems with modern school systems and ensure that education once more offers something of value? In short, how can we clean up this terrible mess?

A Long Road To A Better Future

According to Shapiro, the first step is to change how we think about education. We have a misconception, he says, that discomfort, boredom, and pain are terrible things – that we should never experience any of them. But education is uncomfortable.

“We need a cultural shift in how we think about what it means to learn because we’re shifting what you need to learn,” Shapiro explained in an interview with NPR. “[Learning] is one of the most painful things in the world. It’s hard. You have to be severed from your old way of being, and that’s always painful.”

Once we’ve managed to reposition how we approach education; that’s when the real fun begins. The next step is to take a look at the overall system. All the fancy gadgets and advanced techniques in the world won’t address what Shapiro appears to believe is the real problem with modern education: disparity.

Fixing A Broken System

“On average, better teaching seems to be commonplace at schools that serve more affluent communities,” Shapiro writes. “Students most likely to suffer through boring teachers tend to be folks with low socio-economic standing. Therefore, we shouldn’t believe anyone who tells us we should embrace technology—even video games—because it will increase student engagement.”

Right. We’ve identified the two major problems with our current education system: economic disparity and a faulty mindset. Now…what happens next?

According to Quartz, there are four necessary – albeit uncomfortable – steps that need to be taken:

 

  • Make four-year degrees cheaper: US college completion rates are abysmal, and not because American students aren’t intelligent – it’s because too many simply cannot afford to complete their degrees. Quartz suggests harnessing the power of online education to help cut costs, while steering students away from unnecessarily long educational tracks.
  • Stop financing public education with property taxes: For many years, the education of one’s children was tied primarily to where one lived. Parents in wealthy districts paid higher property taxes, meaning their children had access to better schooling. This has created a significant socioeconomic divide; it is almost entirely responsible for the disparity mentioned earlier by Shapiro. Education should be implemented through state and federal funding, not property taxes.

 

Closing Thoughts

Even with all the technological advances lying just over the horizon, the future of education in the States is a relatively bleak one. Educators, parents, and government officials must work together to bring about change. Otherwise, it’s going to remain as such.

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