Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Education: Still Teaching for the Industrial Age?

      Why are American public schools still teaching students on an Industrial Age model instead of the Information Age model? Just recently both the Huffington Post ("Industrial Age Education Is a Disservice to Students") and St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Superintendent Thomas Burns addressed this issue. 

      What is amazing is that the need to change from the Industrial Model to the Information Age Model has been discussed for decades...and yet it hasn't happened. According to the Huffington Post article, "...the current K-12 system isn't preparing students for today's needs. An example of the gap in our education system is found in the shortage of graduates from the programs that meet the insatiable demands of our knowledge economy. This includes science, technology, engineering, and math fields, among others."

      Supt. Burns, in a recent interview at Clarkson University, also noted that schools need to change from the Industrial Model to the Information Age Model in order to meet students' needs and in order to prepare students for the jobs that exist in the country.

    What characterizes the Industrial Model?

  1. An over-reliance on Standardized Tests
  2. A focus on memorization and multiple choice questions  
  3. Passive learning where students sit and listen to lectures
  4. Minimal focus on critical thinking
  5. Little time, if any, spent outside the traditional classroom setting (In comparison, 2 out of 3 high school students in Switzerland are placed in apprenticeships during school hours.)
     On top of all of this, recent reports about the possible over-diagnosis of ADHD, ADD (attention deficits) in American students and the prescribing of drugs for so many students could be tied to the fact that young brains may be developing differently in the computer age, thus calling for different instructional models.  In addition, forcing students to sit all day long as passive learners and giving them little or no recess contributes to the dichotomy between their computer (iphones, ipads, ipods, laptops, desktops, gaming consoles) lives outside school and their Industrial Model lives at school. 

      Mr. Burns said he feels that the fiscal crisis in schools will drive educational change and re-structuring. Isn't it too bad that wisdom about needed educational reforms didn't precipitate such changes?  Did we really have to get to the cusp of fiscal insolvency in order to seriously discuss making significant and long-overdue educational changes? 

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