Get back to basics in our failing schools

  • Article by: GARY STEVENSEN
  • Updated: June 20, 2014 - 6:12 PM

We keep trying the next new approach, and students end up worse off as the guinea pigs.

University of Minnesota educational psychology Prof. Scott McConnell says that two years is much too short a time to measure the efficacy of something called “focused instruction,” thereby insisting that the guinea pigs in the school system (sometimes referred to as students) have even less chance of coming out of a school knowing anything useful, particularly when compared with their counterparts in areas of the world not beset by professors of educational psychology (“Too soon to trash ‘focused instruction,’” June 16).

He comments that U.S. education, as an industry, has tried numerous methods to educate children. Those efforts have increasingly met with failure, which should tell us that the industry is the failure, rather than the guinea pigs.

Instead of seeking ways to make educating our young easier for teachers and the far-too-numerous administrators, maybe we could look to the past to discover how it was that we managed to win two world wars, produce the world’s most vital economy, go to the moon, and invent computers and the Internet. All were accomplished by former students educated by the “old methods.” Maybe it’s not really such a good thing to be suspicious of every idea older than yesterday afternoon, even if it wasn’t dreamed up by a university professor.

It’s been said that education is the only industry in which if we fail, we fire the customer. Maybe it would be a good idea to turn that around and fire the industry as it now exists, and do what we more successfully did before. Instead of consulting the haunts of faculty lounges, we could rely on history to teach us what to do. Trial and error taught the old-timers, and they were successful, (if a decent, vibrant civilization is what we’re after), and we can benefit from their experience, if we’ll look to it.

If there’s another agenda in education besides producing a decent, vibrant civilization, let’s hear all about it. We might not want it, and we’re the ones paying for it.

Gary Stevensen lives in Shakopee.

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