Friday, October 12, 2012

The Need to Reform The American Education System

As an educator, I am always trying to think of ways to make our education system better.  I do have two young kids who have just began their schooling and I want the best for them and all children.  I can't help but to be worried.  Given developments in today’s world, and especially in education, I am beginning to think that our traditional educational system model is a little bit outdated and out of touch with what is needed to perform at the top level in today's world.

I think we need to step back and look at the American Educational System from a fresh new perspective.  A perspective that isn't tainted by "Old-School Thought."  As I see it, it appears that alot of the “fixes” and “reforms” that are being discussed at the local, state and national level are all old-school ideas based on a system that is out of date and no longer applies to the world we live in. Look at the pace of change today in all aspects of society (business, culture, social, etc.)  It is amazing at how fast things are happening.  I believe that we are in the middle of significant change in how things happen and how our lives function. 

Now think about this.  The people who will do well in this changing world and the people who will end up leading us are those people who will be the best prepared for this "new" changed world.  We have got to start preparing today's younger generation for this change.  We need to focus on solid thinking skills, which means thinking in principles and thinking creatively.

A recent story in the NY Times Magazine spoke about innovation leadership and reported that “we need help thinking”.  The business world is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to consultants – the article calls them “brains for hire” – who can “innovate” for them – and the form of innovation is creative thinking. It appears we, as a society, are losing our ability for creative thinking. 

This is why “school” is outdated. School as we’ve known it maybe served a purpose 20, 30, even 50 years ago.  Our school model was adequate to serve that purpose back then, but it has fallen behind and needs an overhaul.  We need an education system that prepares for today: which means preparing students for how to prepare.

This maybe a little hard to understand.  Years ago, when someone started school until the time the graduated, the world did not change a whole lot.  True, there were small changes, but nothing on a big scale.  Therefore, schools could prepare students for their post-education lives because it was fairly simple and straight-forward.  You got a job in a career and worked.  Most careers had not changed that much for the prior 20 or 30 years.  Education didn't get modified too much. 

Now flash forward to today.  We can no longer simply prepare for the present time because by the time students graduate twenty plus years later they are already “obsolete”. That is a scary thought.  We need to prepare students for the world that they will encounter in a time when that world doesn’t yet exist!  We need to equip them to solve problems that we haven’t even identified yet. This sounds like a daunting and difficult task, but it isn't impossible.  What we need to teach students is THINKING, and it’s the one thing that traditional education hasn’t done a very good job of “teaching”.

Traditional Education is still about the facts.  Teach the students the facts and we are good to go.  They know what they need to know.  Schools are starting to look at Critical Thinking skills and focus more on them.  In Iowa, we have CORR, CRISS, and numerous other teaching strategies that seem to be headed that way.  My hope is that we do not abandon them as so often happens with Professional Development categories.  We have got to start incorporating critical thinking more and more in the classroom.  We also need to start teaching the kids these skills at a younger age. 

I have to admit, I am a little worried about my kids' education.  I hope we can get it right, not just for the sake of the kids but for the sake of the adults.  It is today's youth that will lead us in the future.


  1. I like you emotion for our education system and i m also worried about it and i think if every one feel their responsibility then a great change will be there soon.

  2. I Think You Know MeMarch 7, 2011 at 10:36 AM

    Thanks! I am very emotional and feel strongly about the education system. I have two kids, ages 5 and 7, and I am a teacher. I want was is best for my kids and for the future of America.


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