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What should be taught in schools?


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#1 Omega

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Posted 30 June 2017 - 10:14 PM

I'm trying to organize my thoughts about education reform. At the moment, i'm seeing six basic goals of public schooling::
  • Maximize employable skills
  • Maximize exposure to art/general knowledge
  • Maximize ability to participate in society effectively
  • Ensure resources required to these ends are available
  • Minimize time to completion
  • Minimize resource consumption
Maximizing employable skills is straightforward: take whatever community colleges would teach, and teach that to high school students.

Maximizing exposure to art and general knowledge is not terribly different from what it has always been.

But maximizing ability to participate in society effectively, that's a complex topic. I feel like it overlaps with the concept of virtue.

Respect others
Resolve conflict
Process conflicting sources of information to determine truth
Admit mistakes
Help others
Ask for help
Work hard
Recognize cognitive distortions and biases

https://en.wikipedia...tive_distortion
https://en.wikipedia.../Cognitive_bias
https://en.wikipedia...ognitive_biases
https://en.wikipedia..._of_the_commons

What else? I need feedback and thoughts!

#2 yadda yadda

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 04:12 AM

You've essentially touched upon it with your processing conflicting sources of information to be able to determine truth, but I believe that an early education emphasis on critical thinking and logic is sorely lacking in our schools. I didn't encounter formal training in logic until college, though I was fortunate enough to have parents who inculcated in me the foundations of reasoning, objective validation, and an examination of HOW to think while still a child. The closest I came to having a class like this in high school was a propaganda and mass media module in our social studies curriculum.

Learning the basics of how to recognize and create valid argumentation and recognize the converse is such a basic skill that is underdeveloped in our population. Rote memorization of facts, figures, and events seems to represent the majority of things "learned" in early education, and that amassing of knowledge is important. But learning concepts and processes like math and principles of scientific thought are mental tools necessary to developing the ability to learn more. And developing logical skills is like learning math for words and ideas. It is the cornerstone of an ordered and rational mind, protected against the assault of manipulation by political, religious, cultural, or advertising entities seeking influence and to control or channel mass opinion for their power or profit.

Edited by yadda yadda, 01 July 2017 - 04:14 AM.


#3 sierraleone

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 07:14 AM

Thanks Omega. I was just thinking this week a debate course should be mandatory in school. Ok, maybe not, but the basics of forming and defending one's (or analyzing another's) argument or position should be, especially common fallacies used by people in discussions/debates. As Yadda yadda, I did not learn these in primary/secondary school at all. I took a post-secondary philosophy introduction course, which barely brushed on it IIRC, so that was about the extent of my formal education on such things. I am just blessed/privileged with a naturally inquisitive mind inclined toward analytical thinking (not that my family finds it such a blessing ;) ).  

View PostOmega, on 30 June 2017 - 10:14 PM, said:

I'm trying to organize my thoughts about education reform. At the moment, i'm seeing six basic goals of public schooling::
.
.
.
Maximizing employable skills is straightforward: take whatever community colleges would teach, and teach that to high school students.

I don't disagree, but I am less and less certain that this kind of stuff (skills for specific jobs) is of prime important in our rapidly changing world. So my mind goes in two directions here. Though it is more commentary on our societal/economic structure than on what we should teach children.
- There will always be low-skilled labour/services needed, and people who, either due to lack of ability or opportunity, end up there should still be able to support themselves (i.e. a living wage).
- If automation replaces most of them that presents other issues. Doesn't really change the underlying issue though. There will always be people with a lack of ability for highly advanced education (and jobs), and I don't see their numbers budging lots. Automation will just make more people lose opportunities for employment, at least partly regardless of ability.

Quote

Maximizing exposure to art and general knowledge is not terribly different from what it has always been.

As long as one recognizes that general knowledge isn't unbiased (nor is the status-quo for that matter). No way does school have time to teach everything, but I think it would be interesting if they included a day at the end of the term for formal critiques of their course. It would acknowledge to the young students that that the narrative the course has given isn't the standard/default/only one and that there is so much more to explore out there. I am thinking more about history, but even art could fall under it, as I took visual art throughout high school and it was awfully euro-centric, and there are plenty of indigenous art methods/styles in my country that they could have brought into the courses here and there. Though I am probably going more into the weeds here than you intended ;)

I assume most courses are covered under here/general knowledge: official language/literacy, number system(s)/math, geography, ecology, history, social studies, art (visual arts, and music), science.

And don't forget civic knowledge of one's government. Though maybe that falls under the next part.

Quote

But maximizing ability to participate in society effectively, that's a complex topic. I feel like it overlaps with the concept of virtue.

Respect others
Resolve conflict
Process conflicting sources of information to determine truth
Admit mistakes
Help others
Ask for help
Work hard
Recognize cognitive distortions and biases

What else? I need feedback and thoughts!

I think of these as basic life skills. Not to downplay them, just the opposite. Plenty of kids come from disadvantaged backgrounds (not talking solely socio-economically, kids from the middle/upper class can come from dysfunctional homes and lack these skills), and need exposure to these skills from somewhere. And that somewhere for them is either going to be the school, or problematically: the media or their peers. So I totally agree.

What about other basic life skills? Emotional self-regulation probably overlaps with some of what you said. What about home-economics? Health (mental, socio-emotional, physical), human-development (especially child-development/parenting), sex-ed?
ETA: Oh! And financial literacy.

I'd probably add in media literacy too. With media everywhere people need to be able to evaluate what they are being constantly exposed to.


I've heard this about parenthood: parents aren't raising children, they are raising adults (while recognizing the developmental needs of their children). And I think our education ought to be the same way.


Things that don't seem explicitly to be covered above:
- Second language (general knowledge?)
- Physical education (considering the obesity epidemic and the amount of screen time both adults and children get these days, I don't think it can be ignored).


There is also the fact it is just not what we teach children, but how we teach children. As in how school is structured, very often irrespective of childrens' development needs. We need how we teach children to match how they best learn. This is also of prime importance when talking about education reform. Montessori schools were on the right track, as far as I can tell. And Finland seems at the vanguard of changing how teachers teach.

There is also a movement of sorts to try to lengthen the school days to accommodate the work schedule of double-income or single-parent households (assumes they work regular office hours?). I actually disagree with it, but that is a structural problem far beyond what you are discussing.

Edited by sierraleone, 01 July 2017 - 08:43 AM.

Rules for surviving an Autocracy:

Rule#1: Believe the Autocrat.
Rule#2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule#3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule#4: Be outraged.
Rule#5: Don't make compromises.
Rule#6: Remember the future.
- Masha Gessen
Source: http://www2.nybooks....r-survival.html

#4 sierraleone

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 08:32 AM

View PostOmega, on 30 June 2017 - 10:14 PM, said:

I'm trying to organize my thoughts about education reform. At the moment, i'm seeing six basic goals of public schooling::
  • Maximize employable skills
  • Maximize exposure to art/general knowledge
  • Maximize ability to participate in society effectively
  • Ensure resources required to these ends are available
  • Minimize time to completion
  • Minimize resource consumption
One thing that might be missing is maximizing students' personal potential. One could argue that that is covered by at least the first three-four, but I guess I feel that speaks more to a well-rounded education model (which is important), but there should be some emphasis on the more personal. Education is not just what educating all these kids/people means to us, society at large, as important as that is, but what it means to each of the persons being educated.

Talking about persons' personal potentials suggests education should not be cookie-cutter, it should ensure that kids with skills or talents or interests should be encouraged/supported in those areas, as well as kids with developmental challenges should not be languishing in something that more resembles a daycare facility instead of a learning establishment.


As for maximizing ability to participate in society effectively:

Ask for help? Just ask, ask anything, everything. In a respectful way. :)
Yes, specifically know when one needs help, and feeling comfortably asking for it as needed, is very important too.

Missing:
Active listening. It is a skill that seems forgotten ;) It is not passive.
Time-managment, and organization.

Edited by sierraleone, 01 July 2017 - 08:50 AM.

Rules for surviving an Autocracy:

Rule#1: Believe the Autocrat.
Rule#2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule#3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule#4: Be outraged.
Rule#5: Don't make compromises.
Rule#6: Remember the future.
- Masha Gessen
Source: http://www2.nybooks....r-survival.html

#5 sierraleone

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 09:09 AM

Inspired by Facebook today: basic first aid! :D (They also mentioned some home-ec stuff, plus changing a tire/oil, doing taxes).
Rules for surviving an Autocracy:

Rule#1: Believe the Autocrat.
Rule#2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule#3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule#4: Be outraged.
Rule#5: Don't make compromises.
Rule#6: Remember the future.
- Masha Gessen
Source: http://www2.nybooks....r-survival.html

#6 Omega

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Posted 03 July 2017 - 09:16 PM

Great thoughts!

In the tradition of my absurd rewrite-the-world projects (like my giant list of constitutional amendments and infrastructure megaprojects and my papers on making elections completely unrecognizable) I'm looking at education. Supposing we started public schools with a blank sheet, for the needs of students today, how would we do it?

Being an engineer, I want to start with a spec. What do students need to know by the time they get done? From there, I think I'm going to work backwards. Define subtasks for each goal, define how many hours each one takes, and see how many hours that works out to. I suspect the entire concept of grades goes away...

#7 Cybersnark

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Posted 04 July 2017 - 10:06 AM

I'm a big fan of the three-stage approach:

Stage 1 (childhood/grade school): the basic things that everybody needs to know; reading, writing, math, basic hygiene, respect for self and others, safety, computer use, etc. It would be nice to assume some of this was being handled by parents, but I've known too many parents who were actively terrible, misinformed, or just plain overwhelmed.

Stage 2 (adolescence/high school): more complicated/sensitive things that people should know but can (technically) survive without; critical thinking, research skills, gender studies, advanced mathematics, science, basic coding, driving lessons, history, political theory, world religions, languages, first aid, etc. This should also include career counseling and guidance.
This is what needs to be incentivized (I come from a town where, for years, it was routine for people to drop out of high school at 15 and go to work in the paper mill [and then grow up and watch your kids do the same]. Then the mill closed and employment crashed because half the town doesn't have high school diplomas --I understand similar stories are playing out across the US [and other places besides]).

Stage 3 (adulthood/college): specialized, career-related training that is only necessary to a select group; advanced medicine, advanced programming, engineering, theoretical physics, radio astronomy, astronaut training, etc.

As technology & culture marches on, it would be (relatively) easier to add subjects and switch them around (eventually, what we call "astronaut training" becomes a high school course, and high school students start studying for Starfleet Academy entrance exams).
"Hilarity ensues." --Seamus Harper

#8 Omega

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Posted 04 July 2017 - 03:04 PM

^One aspect I want to include is a meta-education loop. There's got to be a defined process in place for keeping the curriculum updated. Otherwise you end up... where we are now.

#9 sierraleone

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Posted 04 July 2017 - 05:22 PM

I was reading an article about what Canada should do for its next 150 and the author wrote this about education:

Quote

Spending money on education is not charity. Educating the uneducated is like digging a new mine or putting new farmland into production.

Rules for surviving an Autocracy:

Rule#1: Believe the Autocrat.
Rule#2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule#3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule#4: Be outraged.
Rule#5: Don't make compromises.
Rule#6: Remember the future.
- Masha Gessen
Source: http://www2.nybooks....r-survival.html

#10 gsmonks

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Posted 04 July 2017 - 08:16 PM

What should be taught in schools? is a central question that has been around as long as the public school system has existed. Every attempt to elaborate this question beyond the few basics has been shot down in flames: basic grammar, math, and suppository writing, or as  old-timers used to say, readin', writin', an' 'rithmetic, aka "the three r's".
Capitalism is a pyramid scheme run by the 1%.

#11 Omega

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Posted 05 July 2017 - 08:06 AM

View Postsierraleone, on 04 July 2017 - 05:22 PM, said:

I was reading an article about what Canada should do for its next 150 and the author wrote this about education:

Quote

Spending money on education is not charity. Educating the uneducated is like digging a new mine or putting new farmland into production.

That. Is. Excellent.

#12 gsmonks

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Posted 05 July 2017 - 06:13 PM

View PostOmega, on 05 July 2017 - 08:06 AM, said:

View Postsierraleone, on 04 July 2017 - 05:22 PM, said:

I was reading an article about what Canada should do for its next 150 and the author wrote this about education:

Quote

Spending money on education is not charity. Educating the uneducated is like digging a new mine or putting new farmland into production.

That. Is. Excellent.

Ick. People are not a resource. Education has the power to free the uneducated, to provide the individual with insight, to allow anyone to better comprehend the world and their place in it. Education is the liberation of the mind.
Capitalism is a pyramid scheme run by the 1%.

#13 sierraleone

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Posted 05 July 2017 - 06:36 PM

I saw it as saying it will enrich their, and society's, quality of life, including in many immaterial ways. Not that the benefit of education is making people good cogs in the capitalist consumer system.

Edited by sierraleone, 05 July 2017 - 06:36 PM.

Rules for surviving an Autocracy:

Rule#1: Believe the Autocrat.
Rule#2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule#3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule#4: Be outraged.
Rule#5: Don't make compromises.
Rule#6: Remember the future.
- Masha Gessen
Source: http://www2.nybooks....r-survival.html

#14 Cybersnark

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Posted 06 July 2017 - 10:19 AM

Exactly; not a charity, but an investment. Something that will pay off in the future rather than right now.
"Hilarity ensues." --Seamus Harper

#15 gsmonks

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Posted 06 July 2017 - 10:09 PM

View PostCybersnark, on 06 July 2017 - 10:19 AM, said:

Exactly; not a charity, but an investment. Something that will pay off in the future rather than right now.

I disagree. Education is a fundamental human right.

Investment smacks of strings being attached, as in business.
Capitalism is a pyramid scheme run by the 1%.


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