Vienneau (vienneau) wrote,

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Those Who Can't...

I want to rant about education.

This has been building up in me for years (as many English teachers at parties I've attended have discovered), but juggernt's recent rhetorical comment brought it to the surface. I haven't done a non-Magic rant in a while, so why not give it a go and see if my muscles are soft?

His point was the oft-mentioned cliche that, "wouldn't it be nice if teachers were paid as much as celebrities and athletes".

As a person whose family and friends are filled with teachers, I have one thing to say to that, Puh-lease. Is 10-16 weeks of vacation not enough?

Have you seen what they teach in school these days? When we start finding teachers who know how to really teach, and realize what should be taught versus rote learning and archaic literature (Shakespeare, I'm looking at you), *then* maybe they'll start earning a bit more coin.

Our school systems are based on 19th century "what a gentleman should know" type of learning versus things that are useful for improving your life and improving society. Schools rush computers into the classrooms even though they've been repeatedly proven not to improve (and potentially hurt) learning or grades (duh!). Schools teach Latin and Shakespeare and 2-dimensional Geometry while ignoring basic economics and politics that might help students become productive and contribute to the society around them (or at least improve the quality of their voting). Where's the critical thought? Where's the ability to see biased writing, understand statistics and be skeptical of government and advertising? People and team skills? Anyone? Anyone?

You know what was, by far, the most valuable class for me in high school? Typing. It got me high paying jobs all through high school and university, and had me working with computers all the time learning word processing and spreadsheet skills. It is closely followed by Computer Science and Economics where I learned coding and decision-making skills as simple as opportunity cost. None of those courses are mandatory.

You know what was easily the most useless set of courses? English. That's a course you have to take throughout high school up here in Canada. I love reading and writing and in the appropriate situation, I'm not a bad speaker. But none of that is due to what I learned in English where my marks fluctuated wildly depending on my relationship with the teacher. What about French? Most of English Canada needs to take French and yet very few of us can actually understand a native speaker. Give us a red octagonal sign with "Arrêt" though, and we can both tell you what it means and conjugate it! Math? Why not un-inspire generations of children by making it boring and seemingly inapplicable?

That leads me to the worst crime - the methods of teaching. Teachers and textbooks make it look like everything is already known. I read Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and afterwards I wanted to jump up and start taking a degree in both paleontology and biology because I never realized how much is still waiting to be discovered. But all through school there was a feeling of nothing new to be explored and all the big problems had been solved. There are millions of kids out there who have memorized hundreds, if not thousands, of Magic cards and song lyrics and television shows (or improved their language skills with roleplaying games) because they're fun, but they can't figure out how to get kids learning the basics of primary subjects or inspire them to go into the sciences. We can't even get them to read!

Where are the goals? Some kids will want to make lots of money, show them how! Others will want to help people or learn about the world around them, still others will want to teach or lead or build or drive subways (though I can't possibly imagine anyone who really wants to do that - they deserve the big money). What do we do about that? Nothing! We teach them all the same subjects, the same way they were taught to us and to our parents before us. The theory is that if you teach the basics, the rest can be figured out, but we seem to have forgotten how to teach application.

I realize that this is somewhat similar to blaming government workers for the sorry state of the government. It's not entirely the fault of the educator, but they're hardly guilt-free, especially as many of them go on to help design curriculums and policy. There are lots of bad teachers out there, and there are lots of mediocre teachers out there. But similarly, there are lots of not-so-good actors and athletes and they're not making a lot of money either.

Where are the great teachers? The ones that inspire students, that challenge them? That make students better people for having attended the class, not just a bigger bucket of facts? Get them together and I assure you that within a generation, they'll be living in big houses and attending the best parties.

Granted there are different levels of education. It's been a while since I've attended primary schooling, but seeing how it turns out later, I suspect the beginnings aren't so different. And university education is just as bad - everything I learned from university was by accident!

The education system is a massive failure, and the teachers are its guardians and propagators. They don't deserve to be paid more until they start producing a better product. Unfortunately, I don't see the people demanding such an improvement until they become better educated!
Tags: education systems teachers
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