Education reform starts with listening to your kids

Yesterday I attended my son’s “shirt day” ceremony.  As part of heir rites of passage from the fifth to the sixth grade, students who did well were presented with one free school uniform shirt.  It’s a cool gesture I suppose for it does help a family save a few bucks during back to school season.  As I sat there listening to the teachers give speeches and pep talk to students are parents alike, it occurred to me that school is so much less about education and so much more about programming.

Schools appear less concerned about identifying a child’s path to life success and more concerned about programming them into being part of a collective sand box. Rally cries of “team before the individual” were starting to get on my last nerves and I expressed no intent of hiding my displeasure at what was bordering on something Josef Stalin or Nikita Khrushchev would have enjoyed.

The irony is that some of America’s prominence especially as an economic powerhouse came from individuals who went against the grain.  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs quickly come to mind.  Mr. Gates’ refusal to give away programming for free during his very early years drew the ire of fellow programmers, but the result was the construction of a software empire and the makings of one the world’s richest men.

Mr. Jobs, a contemporary of Mr. Gates, bucked the marketing trend by combining his vision of what the consumer wanted in the look and use of technology and selling the vision without the use of focus groups.  The result was not only attaining billionaire status and providing communications devices bought around the world, but the establishment of a community of die-hard purchasers of his computing devices.  Mr. Jobs, on his own terms, created value that drew consumers into a community of users.

My son has exhibited frustration with this model.  Specifically he wants to know why all the emphasis on college only.  Last year his homeroom was labeled “Georgia Tech” (much to my disgust as they are our rivals in the Atlantic Coast Conference).  This year, as a sixth grader, his homeroom is the University of Pennsylvania.  His path, selected two years ago, is to pursue a career in fashion design.  Being that I am a meat and potatoes and T-shirt and jeans fellow, I had nothing to do with this choice. Then again given that I’m a boring cook and did not inherit my father’s sense of style, maybe that was enough influence for my son.

School does provide some important analytic tools, i.e. reading, writing, arithmetic, but I think what’s frustrating for students is seeing how any of this applies to what they are interested in, assuming they’ve identified what they are interested in at all.

No wonder we have Princeton graduates who are unemployed, disappointed, and frustrated.  They educated themselves into becoming a part of a wheel that was pre-ordained by others when students, from the time they can walk and talk, should have been ordaining their own futures.

Our school systems are producing a bunch of socialists.

About Alton Drew

Alton Drew brings a straight forward and insightful brand of political market intelligence. Alton Drew graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science (1984); a Master of Public Administration (1993); and a Juris Doctor (1999). You can also follow Alton Drew on Twitter @altondrew.
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