Thursday, February 4, 2010


I note in my local paper that one of Utah's legislators has suggested doing away with the 12th grade in school. His reasoning is suspect, but certainly we ought to look at ways of improving our school system.
Our schools, I feel, should have two responsibilities (besides keeping the kids out of sight and circulation). The first is to teach them about the world -- its history, construction, their place in it, all that jazz. The second is to teach to operate in that world. That's where we fall down.
Before I discuss my system, though, two thoughts: 1) We no longer live in a society where kids are necessary to the family during the summers. They don't need to slop the hogs and pull the plows, to pull that barge and tote that bale. Therefore, school should be year-round. 2) There is more information outside the school than inside. Therefore, schools should concentrate on things that a student needs a classroom setting to get.
My system, the Shook Universal Education Theorem (Or SUET), consists of two parts, each part taking one-half the school day (which should be eight hours long, not including lunch breaks). Part one is theory: history, writing, reading, geography, math, geology, all those things that impart information. Anything but the knowledge basics would be extra-curricular (and here I include band, choir, art, drama, literary studies, sports).
The second half of each day would be spent learning to work, either by studying a craft, practicing a trade, or being an apprentice, all done in a work setting (with pay) when possible.
It'll never happen, though, will it.


Becky Stauffer said...

I agree with your statement about looking for ways to improve our school system. But I am curious about one thing you suggest In your system, when are those extracurricular things, band, choir, art, drama, literary studies, sports (gym class?)taught? I'm wondering if you are suggesting they should be dropped entirely from school curriculum.

Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

Music has a mathematical base and art contributes to the use of the right brain and ergo seeing a problem from a broad perspective. Drama allows the students to express themselves other than gang settings. And even sports teaches team work and cooperation. I think they are all as valid as shop and basic tool use.

I am having trouble seeing the 2nd graders working. Making license plates perhaps?

On both your houses said...

There are always people who use logic to analyze my arguments. Troublemakers all!
Would I eliminate band,et al, from the curriculum. Depends. How much time to we have? If band is an escape from other classes, it doesn't belong in the curriculum. If a person has a passion for music, band isn't necessary. I think that making it extracurricular would simply lead to musicians sticking with it and others dropping out and the level of excellence would rise.
The point is that, if we are going to have educated people, we may have to chop some things. If you want to chop calculus, that's okay with me.
Second graders work? Sure. What can second graders do? Making license plates is a good idea.
Actually, I'd suggest that the early years, when children are really taking things in, learning like mad, absorbing knowledge like little sponges, kids should spend most of the time in school. Maybe a graduated shift in school/work time would be nice.
One thing to remember is that we once lived in an age when a person could go his or her whole life with no education at all.

Catfish Tales said...

We do this in Holland, and they have been doing this for many years in other Germanic countries, I'm told. It's practical, yes. Students are malleable too. Yet, teaching them blocks of theory then shoving them off to 'work release', or estage as it's called here, is not the ideal for enlightened learning. IMO, these kids are miles apart from American students. For one thing, they do the absolute minimal and don't like to stand out and 'shine' with their studies, as competitive learning isn't encouraged here.

In America I did a lot of student teaching in regular secondary schools and likened them to prisons. When I received my licence (certificates then), I made it a point to work in alternative schools instead, which, in those days, were likened more to schools for 'gifted and talented'. Today, I'm told, such schools - mostly due to bussing and funding problems - have been absorbed into city systems following state edu department rules and becoming more like collection agencies for dropouts.

In my day of alternative school teaching, however, we used quite effectively some of the notions, as Jacqui suggests, where what you deem 'extracurricular' was integral to a system of learning math, say, combined with music theory. We'd perform what we wrote, and we'd express our ideas by fleshing them out in multi-dimensions, such as turning thought into 3-D design. These type students, I observed firsthand, were more actively engaged in their learning than in the more 'prison like' environments of the general schools where learning was traditional and rote - dead and boring.

On both your houses said...

I think I'm drawing a lot on my own school experience. I can't remember much of my high school experience that was either 1) very valuable, or 2) helped me to be a functioning adult. I sure had a good time, though. I was on a couple of ball teams, the school newspaper, chorus, band, yada, yada, yada.
One of the problems with our school system is that it "just growed" out of a sytem designed to make a man (sexist tag deliberate) into a "gentleman."

Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

I think what has really failed is parents. School was to teach us to learn (not pass a test) and love learning. Parents were suppose to teach us about sex, and balancing our check books.

Parents have abdicated more and more of their "duties" to the school system and then just bitched and moaned when they didn't get it right. And then it became all about getting the piece of paper. Not about really learning something.

If I got a less than acceptable grade my parents were all over me. But today they are all over the teacher.

School was never about teaching you to survive in life. Parents are suppose to be about that.