In 2005 I had a short series, “King for a Day”, in which I pompously pronounced what the Imperial Highness (which would be me (us?)) would do if I (we) had complete dictatorial powers and could set and establish law and policy in given venues. I invite  (and had invited) commenters to either comment on my policy (or give me trackbacks or comments relating to what they would do in the same place. In the following with slight editing changes, I re-post that now.

The “public” educational system in this country is in disarray. Waste of resources combined with poor results demands some action. Acountability as proposed by Mr Bush & Mr Obama  is/are a first step, but does not go far enough. Some of these ideas I’ve proposed before, but I’ll re-iterate here, now that We’ve been proclaimed King.

We would propose that four areas require major attention. The first relates to beauracracy. There are too many administrators compared to the number of teachers and the teachers aren’t calling the shots. So We’ll start off, by firing all the administrators and non-teaching personel, and re-hire only what’s needful. Now one of the reasons We needed such a large administrative overhead, is because of reporting and documentation burdens placed on them by government oversight commitees. So We get rid of those requirements too. Except for one thing, testing. We perform semi-annual testing. More what we test on below.

The second thing that requires attention is curriculum. Details pertaining to curriculum We believe are largely irrelevant. We concede that basic competancy in “survival skills” (English & arithmetic, units and measures and so on), which all can be mastered before the 4th grade by an average student, must be accomplished. Here I note, I am not making the claim that a 4th grader has mastered English, units or maths … but has mastered enough of those skills for rudimentary survival in today’s world. However beyond that (with one exception below) the only thing We would require of our primary education system is that it teaches its students how to be good students, i.e., how to learn well. In order to learn well a student needs four “canonical” education skills: Memorization, Reasoning, Diligence and Perseverance. If your students remember what you say, connect the dots, are careful, and work hard they will excel. If they improve at those things, no matter what they which skills in particular that advancing in order to gain those 4 “canonical” skills, when they arrive at their place of secondary education if they are not prepared a the particular class, they will be a quick study in catching up, especially if, as compared to an average student of today who is very bad at these skills, they will exceed their neighbor in short order if they are better than him at those four skills. 

There is an exception to my granting a complete freedom of curriculum. The one exception is drawn from history. The Ancient Greeks all read Homer, in Greek no less :). An educated Englishman of the 15th-17th century all were read Euclid, the Bible, and a number of other common texts. A common “canon” of texts given to our students to give them a shared set of national symbols to facilitate communications would be a really good thing. I think it would be wonderful if we could come up with 3-8 texts we all have studied carefully and learned well. However, I don’t have any good suggestions for what those texts should be. Deciding that small number of texts which should all be engaging as well as deep enough to provide material for life’s lessons should be an amusing and lively discussion.

Testing which is done, with one exception, should not test any particular material learned, but aptitude in my “canonical skils”. Testing needs to verify that the students are improving at those skills, nothing more. Now, testing these areas for students who have learned a wide variety of basic skills may be difficult … but we sent a man to the moon, a project which took about a decade, 30 years ago. We’d be fooling ourselves if we thought this problem insoluable. The testing results a school achieves would be a matter of very public record. That stigma should be enough to ensure that attentive parents move their kids out (with their money) if poor results ensue. If schools perform too badly, We’d pressure for those schools to be re-organized or direction subsumed by successful ones.

Having freed up curricula of schools to the whim of the local school boards, We’d also like to free up students to go to whatever school they can get enrolled in. As a result, voucherizing all public (and private schools) would be our decree. All schools should be forced to compete for their students. All students should be free to enroll in a school which has a teaching philosophy (and curricula) and performance standards into which they can get accepted. Let’s make our education system more market driven than it is today. Again apply regulation for “fairness” only as needful to prevent egregious unfairness.

Filed under: EducationGovernment

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