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Improving Education?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the education-by-slashdot dept.

Education 1514

Shepherd Book asks: "Not long ago there was a spirited discussion, in the usual Slashdot style, about education, touched off by an article about the value of homework. Even more recently, there was a discussion about the value of grammar. This inspires the following Ask Slashdot question: What, in your opinion, would make primary and secondary education as good as possible? I have no experience of education outside the US, but I can say confidently that public education in my country sucks. And it may always suck. However, what can we do to make it suck less?""For the purpose of this question, the following are givens:

1. I know that there is a strong libertarian faction in this community, who might like to see public education disappear. Let's assume, though, that that isn't going to happen any time soon, and that there will be a public school system for the foreseeable future.

2. Similarly, many Slashdot readers are brilliant people who have educated themselves to a large extent. Let's further accept that most people are not capable of doing this, or at any rate need help reaching that sort of educational self-sufficiency.

Thanks in advance, folks."

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a phonics monkey (2, Funny)

professorhojo (686761) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045381)

for every student.

Re:a phonics monkey (1)

Sean the Impaler (799604) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045415)

eye hed wun ov los

et wurks

Re:a phonics monkey (3, Insightful)

DebianDog (472284) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045547)

It failed Cartman during the spelling test!!! Have you lernt noth'in?

Trade schools for the morons (2, Insightful)

Shut the fuck up! (572058) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045390)

Seriously, let's cut the wheat from the chaff at age 13 or so.

a few starting ideas (5, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045395)

From the Ask Slashdot post:

However, what can we do to make it suck less?
  • stop inflating grades (a recent article reflected on how many schools now have so many valedictorians (one in Seattle actually had 47 valedictorians!) that many have had to dispense with the tradition of having valedictorian address the graduating classes). (The New Yorker article is here [newyorker.com] and is a long, but worthwhile read.)
  • more emphasis on (mathematics) basics. Get rid of the calculators, at least until after the fundamentals are assuredly learned. Make students learn how to use slide rules, for the sake and feel of what is really happening during calculations (addition of log tables... illustrates nice short cuts for coming up with fast and accurate estimates for seemingly complex "problems")
  • more emphasis on (language skills) basics. It would be nice to go an entire day without something totally illiterate on the CNN Headline News crawler. (We once had a "discussion" with our daughter's teacher because he said he wasn't so much interested in her spelling correctly and applying grammatical principles correctly as he was in what she was saying. While we agreed what she was trying to say was important, we felt it equally important (for a fifth grader) to be grounded in grammatical and spelling fundamentals)
  • stop moving kids onto the next grade if they really didn't perform at the level necessary. It's become an "everybody gets a trophy" society, and that's not consistent with the real world. Kids more than ever need to understand rewards and accountability.
  • standards of competency for teachers (rather than tenure by unions). We once accused our daughter of "doctoring" a bad grade when she brought it back with an updated "note" from her teacher. We were convinced she had not met with the teacher because the "note" on her paper from the teacher was illiterate. We were all embarrassed when we confronted the teacher and found he indeed had written the note (maybe that's why he was not so interested in our daughter's grammar).
  • stop relying on technology as the next silver bullet in transcendental teaching philosophies and techniques
  • get rid of MTV

There are probably more, but this might be a good start.

Re:a few starting ideas (0, Offtopic)

WellAren'tYouJustThe (705433) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045426)


  • Well aren't you just the master of the bullet point list?

Slide rules? (3, Insightful)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045532)

The fact that you learned a certain way doesn't mean it's the best way to learn. The drilling kids get on how to do long division and multiplication is a horribly inefficient way to learn how to do it, in fact most arithmetic can be done without paper (with a reasonable number of digits). Math (even without a calculator) is easy, but kids are taught the hard way, which causes them to lose interest in it.

Re:a few starting ideas (1)

sound+vision (884283) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045576)

They don't let us use calculators in Texas schools until high school, by which time the basics have already been learned, or at least they should have.

Who Cares (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13045400)

We dont need no stinking grammer!

Re:Who Cares (1)

`Sean (15328) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045469)

The jokes write themselves.

Elements of Style (3, Informative)

`Sean (15328) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045404)

Simple. Hand out copies of Elements of Style [amazon.com] to every single student. Had that book been given to me in High School I probably wouldn't have hated the class so much.

Re:Elements of Style (2, Interesting)

Compholio (770966) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045530)

Hand out copies of Elements of Style to every single student.

You know what? I had to throw out almost every f***** thing I learned in high school english when they handed me the manual on how I now need to write [amazon.com] .

Re:Elements of Style (1)

kilonad (157396) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045560)

I remember being a young tyke back in the 80s and seeing a copy of the Elements of Style on my parents' bookshelf. I always thought it was a book on fashion and the like, because it had a plaid border on the cover. When I finally dared to look inside, I was sorely disappointed.

Last... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13045409)

Post ;)

Choices (1)

mfloy (899187) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045412)

I think the big issue is allowing students more freedom to choose their courses. The rididness of todays education system leaves many kids unsatisfied because they don't have choice. Offering music, science, athletics or art focused programs could allow students to enjoy school because they get more courses in their field(s) of interest.

Dumb idea. (1)

glrotate (300695) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045502)

The focus needs to be on the 3 R's. Reading, writing and arithmetic. These core areas will develop the students ability to think analytically and express themselves clearly.

The last thing we need are a bunch of silly special interest classes to allow the the students to "find themselves."

Paul Graham's take (2, Interesting)

__david__ (45671) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045414)

This question reminded me of the classic Paul Graham essay "Why Nerds Are Unpopular" [paulgraham.com] . Despite the title, much of the essay is about how much high school sucks and what could be done to fix it.

-David

Hmmm... (1)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045586)

You know, maybe my highschool, being in a collage with lots of children of professors, was warped, but there were lots of smart, popular people there.

Problem Number One: (5, Insightful)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045428)

Eliminate American Anti-intellectualism. Geeks and nerds, while sometimes socially inept, don't deserve to be bullied for good grades. Fostering environments where it's okay to tear kids down because they're doing well in school (we've all seen first hand how little teachers and parents actually do to stop this sort of thing).

Yeah. I'd say that's the biggest issue. Putting kids in an environment where success means social punishment.

Re:Problem Number One: (1)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045467)

I pressed "stop", but it posted anyway. That should say:

"Fostering environments where it's okay to tear kids down because they're doing well in school (we've all seen first hand how little teachers and parents actually do to stop this sort of thing) is the worst thing, in my opinion, short of a lack of funding for obvious materials."

Re:Problem Number One: (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045538)

GET RID of Sports. There is too much time wasted on something where less than 1% of the kids actually become professional athletes.

I am a mega basketball, football, baseball fan. But even I can't help but think about the 2-3hrs wasted on football practice. If you want kids to be in good shape. Make everyone run miles at the end of the day, then call it quits.

Re:Problem Number One: (3, Insightful)

maddskillz (207500) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045544)

When I went to school the nerds weren't bullied for their good grades. They were bullied because they were weak and easy targets.

Re:Problem Number One: (1)

Markus_UW (892365) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045603)

Is your sig a cheat code for TMNT 2 for the NES?

Re:Problem Number One: (1)

dabigpaybackski (772131) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045571)

I suggest the first step in eliminating America's trademark anti-intellectualism is closing all of the public schools where it is taught. Our literacy rates have declined in direct proportion to the amount of state involvement in education.

Re:Problem Number One: (5, Insightful)

Nf1nk (443791) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045594)

some time ago I droped out of society, that is I unpluged the TV stopped listening to the radio, dropped my newspaper subscription, etc. I am happy about that. At work recently they started turnig on the TV in the break room, and I watched a little, The sitcoms were as unfunny as I remember, but what shocked and appalled me was how fucking rude everybody is on TV.
The characters on the shows were willfully stupid, arrogant, and unwilling to follow directions.
Children mimic what they see, and if they watch that drivel I can see why we have such strong anti-intellectualism.
Now I take my break in my car and avoid the whole mess.
The point is, that we need to unplug the children from the box, not just my children, but eveybodys children. The box seems to part of the problem

Accountability and choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13045429)

No one gets fired and no parent has choices unless they have enough cash for private schools. Too much money goes into laptops and facilities and administration and not enough to the front-line soldiers. And there is not much that gets done to front-line soldiers who can't or won't do their jobs.

If at all possible... (2, Insightful)

FrontalLobe (897758) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045430)

I realize many parents arent able to do this, but home schooling is probably the best option.

Re:If at all possible... (1)

StratoChief66 (841584) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045539)

i don't know, good home schooling depends on about the same number of variables as good public schooling. If a parent doesn't care enough to stay in tune with what is going on and how their kid is doing in public school how would a home school solution help?

Plus a parent who is home schooling can't really work a full time career and bring in money, so its not an option for many. I've seen home schooling generate just as many dumb wierdos as public schooling.

Teachers (1)

Donniedarkness (895066) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045432)

The biggest reason that education in the US is lacking is the teachers, in my opinion. An encouraging, INTELLIGENT teacher is the best motivation a child can have. All you need to become a teacher here (at least in Tennessee...) is a high school education and a teaching degree (you dont even have to really STUDY the subject you will be teaching). That's SERIOUSLY wrong.

Re:Teachers (1)

Markus_UW (892365) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045567)

I dunno, here in Canada, teachers need at least a backelor's degree in addition to going to teacher's college, and there are still oh so many horrible teachers. Although to be a teacher of a subject in high school, you need to have at least a certain number (not sure exactly how many) courses that you took in that field (i.e. an engineer would most likely be slated to teach math, physics, and possibly chemistry (and, yes, several of my teachers had engineering degrees)).

But I must say, for every good teacher I had, I must have had 2 inept ones (and my school was considered the best in the area, academically).

Classroom Size needs lowering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13045436)

I think the system needs more teachers per class, right now with the cuts that happen, they are way too big.

Rarely is the question asked: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13045438)

is our children learning?

Demonstrative Teaching (1)

Aelcyx (123258) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045446)

I think making efforts to demonstrate concepts and principles, as far as the sciences and mathematics go at least, would be best. Lecturing and making people read books doesn't cut it in my opinion. Showing students not only experiments, but ways to reason through phenomena they may encounter will give them valuable skills. This can be expensive, so perhaps simulations can be programmed and distributed to schools where they can be shown in computer labs.

LOL (5, Insightful)

RealityMogul (663835) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045451)

"2. Similarly, many Slashdot readers are brilliant people who have educated themselves to a large extent. Let's further accept that most people are not capable of doing this, or at any rate need help reaching that sort of educational self-sufficiency."

Yes, the readers are absolutely brilliant. Unfortunately the posters are a different breed so you may not get the types of repsonses you were hoping for.

Yes I realize what group I've just put myself in by making this comment.

Re:LOL (1)

GoblinKing (6434) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045520)

Especially when you misspell "responses" :P

However this might sound stupid... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045453)

Make it more USSR/Warsaw Pact style. OK, not really serious here (although some idead from the model were good...), but...I'm from ex-Warsaw pact country. For some time education is brought "up to Western standards". Read: it worsened a lot. One has to wonder...

Individuals (1)

Baorc (794142) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045456)

It is hard to improve education as a whole. You will always piss some people off. The most you can do, is become a teacher and take your job at heart. A really good teacher makes a difference in a person's life. I am from Canada therefore I do not know what is in your content for education, but I do know for a fact that whatever you are teaching, the way you present the content to the kids is the most important part of the process.

You can teach anyone anything if you just find the right way to relate to them. By having teachers that understand this and to their best to present in a fun and challenging way, will bring out the most in the students.

Now how you are going to breed a set of teachers like this? I have no clue.

better dictionaries. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13045458)

scientology works!

Basics, basics, basics (1)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045459)

Teach the basics: reading, writing, history and math. Ditch the crap. Two hours of athletic activity per day all through school. Encourage discovery and show them how to use libraries and the internet to delve deep into other topics if they are interrested. Right now schools cover so much crap that nothing sticks for a big chunk of the students. Gifted students will find their own way with a little nudging.

Re:Basics, basics, basics (2, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045601)

Teach the basics: reading, writing, history and math. Ditch the crap.

I'm sorry but I beg to differ. I say teach the basics ABSOLUTELY, yes, but I'm not sure what you call crap. A child's brain is like a sponge, it learns everything you put in it. If you wait till the child is older to introduce a child to other subjects, it's too late.

I think kids should take up 2 other foreign languages as early as possible. Propose them classical latin or greek too. No, they're not "useless in our modern world" as I sometimes hear, they are what differentiate a well-rounded education from a basic no-frills one. Get them to learn all kinds of sciences in fun ways. Get them to experiment. Teach them hard stuff early, but in fun ways... In short: take full advantage of a kid's ability to learn, the trick being not to bore him so he keeps on wanting to learn more.

The other thing is, for God's sake DITCH MULTIPLE CHOICE QUESTIONS! Exams aren't just to get grades, they're a test of a student's reasoning. A math teacher for example should grade a student's reasoning, not the final answer. Similarly, don't rate essays with machines, like it's been proposed recently. All that contributes to de-humanize studies, and only teach students to "work with the system", not to think.

Finally, ditch computers when kids are young. They don't need high tech to learn how to write and count, and school should spend their precious budgets on good teachers and on books.

Reading, writing, & arithmetic through six gra (1)

Fastball (91927) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045461)

Emphasize those skills through and through up to the six grade. Anything that follows is an extension of those fundamentals.

After the six grade, I found school to be more of a social institution. What is taught and learned is diversified to meet our interests and strengths. I'm cool with that.

Where I would reform the U.S. education system is high school through college. Prepare people for jobs. If someone has no interest or struggles with advanced math like calculus or doesn't give a hoot to write a ten page essay, don't make them. As long as they proved they can read, write, add, subtract, multiply, and divide, don't keep piling on unnecessary skills they'll never use.

In short, make high school and college more useful by making them less attractive to everybody.

Study it scientificaly. (5, Insightful)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045462)

Despite the fact that education is basically the most important thing we do (aside from reproducing) it's amazing how rarely it's actually studied in a scientific way. And when it's studied by psychologists, their research is ignored. Crap like "No Child Left Behind" is just a collection of things people made up and thought might help, with no verification whatsoever, yet it's the law of the land.

Bah (1)

globexdesigns (880822) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045465)

The education in North America sucks compared to Europe sucks big time. NA needs to become a lot more stricter. More homework assigned, faster classes, less slack, then it'd be better and we wouldn't have 12 grades and have only 10 like everyone in Europe does.

Parents (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13045474)

Education starts at home. Parents need to be more involved in their child's education. We spend alot more than other countries on a per-student basis, but they get more bang for their buck becuase the students work hard and their parents instill on them the value of an education.

My ideas (4, Interesting)

phoenix.bam! (642635) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045475)

Do away with grade levels. No more of this fifth vs sixth grader crap. Students should be placed into classes that challenge their abilities at all times. For what is now grades 1 through 8 I would love to see 8 levels of math, 8 levels of english and so forth. That way students can be failed or promoted based on actual ability. Also schools need to start just failing students in general. I hate it when i hear people say that failing a child is bad for his self esteem and he should always be promoted to the next grade. Passing a child who is not capable is bad for society. Also, there needs to be more focus on sports in school. Not on the winning or losing but on participating, even if it is only a fun extra curricular league that plays a game a week or something. Too many kids don't know how to exercise and gym just isn't cutting it

Maybe get physical? (2, Insightful)

eggman9713 (714915) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045476)

Revert back to the old days. Hit the damn kids when they get out of line!!

Re:Maybe get physical? (1)

comzen (830240) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045543)

Yes, violence! Beat the fucking knowledge right into the little punks!

Re:Maybe get physical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13045585)

In the good old days no one needed education. Just grap your rifle and charge! Actually, considering the mess in Iraq, maybe replacing school with "mandatory volunteer patriot duty" would be a good thing.

Class (2, Insightful)

gleather (596807) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045477)

You can't have a class-based society and good public education. An educated lower-class will ask why they are lower-class.

Very really good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13045478)

"I can say confidently that public education in my country sucks."

have all student's submit there home-work as slashdot comments and see if that helps much at all, non north americain countrys could outsouce the studens eductation to us. there has too be at least 300k out of work teachers and if they teach 10 students each thats like a millin people taugt really good. because we have very really good education here.

Leave Children Behind (3, Insightful)

TheStonepedo (885845) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045479)

Do away with the "no child left behind" concept. It is a fact of life that some people are not going to "get it" and they need special help. It would be far better to have more children with learning disabilities (LD) in classes catering to LD kids than to have children passing classes just for conformity. If funding is not based on how many children "pass" a given level of classes but instead on standardized test averages the system would work better. There could be a fixed, per-student amount of funding for all public schools with extra funding for the schools that need it the most rather than extra funding for the schools that have the greatest number of high grades and high testing scores.

Revolution, not evolution (1)

m00nun1t (588082) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045482)

The school system is, IMHO, fundamentally wrong. It rewards certain types of behaviour and learning which are simply not atypical. I know of many people who have grown up thinking they were stupid, and not until their 30's or 40's realised they were smart, but simply not adapted to the learning style of the mainstream school system.

Personally, I'm sending my kids to a montessori school. While montessori is certainly far from perfect, IMHO it has less problems than the main stream system.

Tear em all down (5, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045484)

First you need to be open minded enough to stop excluding the best solution out of hand. If you have a sucking chest wound you don't say "What is the best thing I can do, except stop the bleeding?"

Public schools don't work, can't work and aren't even compatible with a Republican form of Government.

Step one: board up every public school and college of education.

Seriously. The damage is beyond repairing, it is systemic and inherent in the concept of forced government education as we currently understand it. Therefore any attempts at 'reform' only prolong a real solution and are a bad idea.

Private schools all the way. Even if someone wants to send their kids to an Islamic fundamentalist madrassas. The Right to be Wrong is the #1 basic right because the second thee or me presumes to sit in judgement of a parent's choice we presume to 1) be their master and 2) be wise enough to make their decisions for them. If parents are going to be empowered to truly make educational decisions for their children we must accept decisions we don't approve of.

The only place for the State to intervene is in cases which could rightly be called abuse/neglect.

Once that policy decision is made, everything else follows. The idea that a math major isn't qualified to teach mathamatics is one that only a union operation with a government mandated monopoly could think up so there go the 'colleges of education' to be replaced with majors in their subject matter perhaps supplementing with a couple of courses in pedagogy.

Here is the secret. Teaching isn't particularly hard. All it requires is a knowledgable and reasonably patient master and an apprentice motivated to learn. Note the ancient usages there, that was intentional and intended to remind just how far back learning goes. They didn't need billions of words of academic text telling them how to do it, they just did it.

Don't generalize (1)

TwoStepsBehind (762238) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045490)

So you're condemning all of public education in one fell swoop? Think twice before you make a statement like that. There are many public schools in this country in suburban areas that are very good, in fact better than their private counterparts.

I agree that many public schools in urban and inner city areas are not that good and are worse than the private schools. But that gives you no right to condemn public education and the many teachers out there that are working very hard (No I'm not a teacher).

What makes you so sure? (1)

Silicon Knight (15308) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045494)

I can say confidently that public education in my country sucks.

I know this is a popular sentiment in the media and many /. folks will probably agree, but what makes you so certain that public school is so bad for the average student?

I don't disagree, I'm just wondering what facts this is based on. I've been employing student assistants at a state university for 10 years and they certainly don't seem any less prepared today than they did when I started here. Obviously my experience is not statistically significant, but it makes me wonder.

Proposed reforms for college English curricula (1)

kilonad (157396) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045495)

After graduating from college, and seeing how useful certain classes are (and how useless others are), I'd like to propose a fundamental change in the way English is taught at the collegiate level. My system is comprised of a three-course sequence, which would only mean one extra class for most colleges. Before arriving at school (perhaps at orientation), each student will be forced to sit through an oral exam. A professor or proctor would recite sentences and phrases that use homophones (to/too/two, your/you're, their/there/they're, etc) and plurals. Students who fail to correctly write at least 85% (or something over 75% at least) would be forced to take a remedial class in homophones, apostrophes, and other basic essentials of the English language. After they pass that class (they'd be forced to take it over and over until they pass), they would join the students who passed the exam in a one semester intro to writing and literature class. Students would get the chance to learn to enjoy literature, write a basic research paper, and generally sharpen their writing skills. The second class would be a technical and professional writing class, so students can learn how to function in scientific, engineering, and office environments. It would cover such things as scientific proposals and research papers, business proposals, office memos, and good product documentation. The third and final class would be public speaking. Students would learn how to give effective presentations, how to tailor presentations to their audience, and how to control their posture and body language to maximize their message. Upper level classes in almost all subjects would put these skills to the test, and would be graded accordingly. This three-course sequence would successfully prepare students for both academia and the real world.

No TV! (1)

comzen (830240) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045496)

...until you have done all your homework.

read: end liberalism (1)

clrscr (892395) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045498)

The school system needs to remove its self distractions and become a school. Other activities sponsored by schools such as sports and music should be put under control of another agency such as the park service. If these activities were based on areas and no on school districts you would have less conflicts of interested such as a student being passed through simply because the teach enjoys that hobby. Schools need to expect more responsibility out of their students and expect the same performance out of all students no matter what their social and economic status is. We should push so that students who live in areas that have schools filled with misbehaving and unguided children and move to suburban schools. This will allow students with drive to get out of their current environment and in to a better one. Instead of segregating schools based on your class.

simple answer (5, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045501)

Parents become responsible.

If parents take interest in their children's education then things change drastically.

My daughter goes to many theatre plays, I expose her to other cultures regularly and encourage learning.

Many parents expect that schools do everything and ignore thier kids.

The fault with the crappy US education system starts and ends with the parents of those children.

IF they do not get in the face of the school by being at PTA meetings, calling teachers on the carpet, or even going to Parent teacher conferences let alone educate their kids themselves outside normal school (learning does not have a schedule people!) then they are causing the dearth of education in their community.

If the parents do not ask for better education and WORK for it, it will never exist.

School suck? Go to a small town (1)

narcolepticjim (310789) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045504)

I went to public school in a small town, and I have no complaints about the education I received.

The school doesn't have a lot of money for things like "modern textbooks" or "above-poverty salaries," but they do have small class sizes and teachers that know you and your parents, and actually give a damn whether you succeed or not.

True story: my high school principal called our Mom one day and told her what my brother had done (distributed profane newspaper accusing band teacher of sodomy). She told him to beat him with the paddle (1988 or 1989).

Easy to fix (1)

ellem (147712) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045506)

Money can't solve everything, only violence can do that

Pay Teachers what people who get out of college make

Dissolve the Department of Education

Allow schools to fire incompetent teachers

Get rid of Tenure

Go back to rote, when kids can PROVE they can handle more move them into different learning situations

No social promotions ever

Harsh displine for problem kids

No technology until High School

Enforce Grammar with poor grades for misuse

Teach other languages early

Math, math, math

Teach Religion, all of them... even Satanism

Improving Evolution (1)

rdurell (827253) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045507)

Did anyone else read this as "Imsproving Evolution?"

It was a sersios Dr. Moreau moment....

The goal of education?? (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045508)

2. Similarly, many Slashdot readers are brilliant people who have educated themselves to a large extent. Let's further accept that most people are not capable of doing this, or at any rate need help reaching that sort of educational self-sufficiency.

The goal of education is to teach students how to teach themselves.

pay the teachers and give them their dignity back. (1)

mike77 (519751) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045509)

How about pay the teachers what they're worth? And give them the respect and dignity they deserve? When it all comes down to it, it's the teachers who stand up in front of the class day in and day out, and if you're working for barely enough to survive on (and certaintly not enough to buy a home these days), and you know that a single bad stuident can get you fired, or sanctioned how much motivation are you going to have? Not to say our current teachers are bad, I think they do amazing considering it all, but I think you find you'll have happier educators who will work harder for their students and come up with better lessons if they're not worrying about making their rent, staying in a low paying job, or pissing off a student or their parents. This has always been a problm I think you can get immediate returns out of if you simply throw money at it, and stand behind the teachers instead of crucifying them at the first problem.

just my $0.02

My opinion (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045511)

1) More stuff that stimulates right brain activity.
2) Classes for different thinkers. There are kinetic learners, like get up and be active. There are those who learn out of books. And so on.
3) Balance history teaching. Instead of nothing but facts, start teaching lessons behind events and such.
4) Less homework, more class discussions.

Home Schooling. (1)

MoronBob (574671) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045512)

My children are home schooled in a "Public Home School Program" That means that it is a home school program ran by the public schools. Its called K12 and most of it is based on book learning but some of it is internet based. The kids get 4-5 hours a day of special attention from a loving mother and teacher.

Open Source Educational Project (1)

randall_burns (108052) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045513)

Shuttleworth has been funding the The School Tool Project [schooltool.org] to create better educational infrastructure. This is something that has the potential to significantly decrease operational costs for public schools in a variety of countries.

school breakfast program (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045514)

One problem that has been identified is that a fairly scary percentage of students go to school hungry. Learning on an empty stomach is quite difficult. The solution is fairly simple: provide breakfast at school (similar to the way lunch is provided). But food costs money so this effort hasn't gotten very far.

The real sad cases are when the kids who come in w/o having had breakfast sometimes complain that they didn't get any dinner the night before either.

Obviously, the problem is more severe in poor/urban areas...so the rich white parents who vote and contribute to campaigns tend not to bring this up at PTA meetings so much.

Slashdot readers are brilliant (1)

appleprophet (233330) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045516)

"Similarly, many Slashdot readers are brilliant people"

You must be new here.

Few things are needed (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045523)

  • Teach science and scientific thinking when studying about maths, physics, biology, chemistry, etc. No intelligent design because it's not a scientifically accepted theory. I started with the most controversial topic, btw.
  • Teach people how to _think_ intelligently. It _can_ be teached and knowing how to reason and think logically should be important.
  • Learn more world history, honestly, the usa just doesn't have enough history of its own to learn not to step into the same sh*t again.
  • Press those kids a bit harder, they are there to learn not to stagnate. Down with that stupid no child left behind Bushism. It lowered the average.
  • It is particularly important to make sure kids know what freedom means in these media controlled times. So, burning a flag = freedom. Hatemongering and/or violence against arabs = not to be tolerated. (refer to the study where most kids thought burning a flag is a crime)


From the top of my hat, thats all i can come up with in a short time. I may post a reply to this post if something else occurs to me. I am aware that i mentioned a lot of sensitive issues.

American schools (1)

part_of_you (859291) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045525)

Schools in America are the same thing they were back in the day when people learned things. So the question is not, "How to make school suck less". It should be, "How to make students learn", which IMHO, is the job of the school. Catch-22?

Really, I could go off on a really long shpeel on this, but if you look at the condition of America now, you might see that there is a much bigger problem, that this education thing is just a small part of.

What Yagu says (1)

Techmaniac (447838) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045526)

with the emphasis on teaching the facts. Too much time is spent these days on teach points of view and revisionist garbage. Give children the plain factually information, language, math, art, PE? and leave the propoganda to the evening news.

No Fair (1)

argoff (142580) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045527)

I'm one of those "libertarians" whould would like to see public education disappear. FYI, my parents sent me to a nice private school in CA, and FYI it cost them less to send me there than it did the state of CA to send a kid in LA to gettho high about 30 minutes north.

Also, I believe govt funded education will go away, they simply cant meet our kids needs for the future, and the govt spending is quickly approaching bankruptcy levels.

Critical Thinking Skills (1)

WombatControl (74685) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045535)

One of the largest problems with education (at least American education) is the utter lack of critical thinking skills. American education is based in doctrines developed by Horace Mann at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. We need to educate children on more than the repetition of rote facts, and teach them to logically process information in a rigorous manner.

There's a wonderful article that's been thankfully saved from extinction by the Internet Archive called http://www.zolatimes.com/V4.39/sesame_epist.html [archive.org] "> Sesame Street, Epistemology, and Freedom that does an excellent job of laying out the kind of critical thinking skills needed to make people capable of understanding the modern world.

Beyond that, education should no longer be used as a system that shelters kids from real life. Students need to be held to high standards, and parents along with them. If someone like Jaime Escalante [imdb.com] can take a group of kids that the system assumed would fail and make them perform, then it's clear that the system is letting kids down.

Human capital is crucial to the success of a modern society, and keeping a system around that's powered by bureaucratic inertia and doesn't do the job hurts not only the kids trapped in the system, but the country at large.

nothing we really can do (1)

bsuk (899275) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045537)

American society has gotten pretty messed up. Short of a massive overhaul of American thoguht and media, I'm not sure if anything can happen. Because what good is having a set of really good and qualified teachers if the kids only want to go out and get drunk? Society and modern media tells the majority of kids that it makes you cool if you focus on sports, pick on the geeks, drink, have sex all while ditching school. So how do we fix all this? Get rid of all the crap that influences the youth today. But as you and I both know, that's impossible. All we can really do is sit back while we get dumber and dumber and hope they snap out of it sooner or later.

Beg to differ (1)

andy1307 (656570) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045540)

I have no experience of education outside the US, but I can say confidently that public education in my country sucks.
Public school education in the US doesn't suck..it's just being dumbed down a little in the quest to leave no child behind....Some children will always be left behind. That's just the way it's going to be.

American parents expect their kids to do well in school without any parental involvement. Parental involvement is the foundation of a good education. A lot of people have lost sight of this.

Poll suggestion (3, Funny)

RM6f9 (825298) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045541)

How to solve the public education problems:

1. Public warehousing of young human animals is fine, don't rock the boat.

2. Pay teachers based on performance.

3. Apply corporal puni^H^Hencouragement to under-performing students.

4. In Soviet Russia, CowboyNeal's Korean grandma gets educated by YOU.

5. Print lessons over graphics of large firm breasts.

6. Scrap the entire system and start over from scratch.

Keep a good a(TT)itude!

Well, I think this says everything really. (1)

zuvembi (30889) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045546)

The reason education sucks is because, we as a society, don't fucking care.

Growing Up Dumber Than Anvils [fredoneverything.net]

If we really did, we'd do something effective about it.

Whaaa? (1)

sH4RD (749216) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045548)

"but I can say confidently that public education in my country sucks."

You can? Really? Have you BEEN to every public school in America? I'm a product of FCPS [fcps.edu] and I can definately say they don't suck. It's one of the best school systems around. People come from many countries around the world to take a look at TJHSST [tjhsst.edu] , the local magnet school. Obviously some school systems in America don't suck if people from many diverse countries want to take a look at how we do things around here...

Dr. Hans Mark's response: (2, Insightful)

Rimbo (139781) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045555)

According to Dr. Hans Mark, former NASA Interim Head and Aerospace Engineering professor at the University of Texas, the answer is: Roll back women's lib.

Back in the days before women's lib, and there were few jobs available to intelligent, educated women, the best and brightest women became teachers. As a result, the United States had an astonishingly good public education system, because we had the best teachers anywhere.

The idea of rolling back women's lib is obviously both abhorrent and unworkable, but there is a legitimate point: Good teachers leads to good education. If our best and brightest desire to become teachers, then our schools will become better whether we want them to or not.

Another problem is that in certain American sub-cultures, education is not considered a viable means to open up opportunities. It is, but these sub-cultures don't consider it to be. Consider Charles Schulz, who succeeded despite terrible failures in school; one year, he failed everything. His parents, who had never had any education, had no idea how to guide him; in an interview, when asked how he reacted to Schulz failing an entire year, his father replied: "I thought he did pretty well."(*) If the parents don't value or understand education, the children won't be successful.

And on that second topic, unfortunately the Religious Right's crowing about "Family Values" is right on target. (Well, even a broken clock is right twice a day.) The only way to solve it is to find a way to reinforce the structural and legal support for the family unit. In the past, this existed in the form of legalized punishments for unwed mothers. Nowadays, we have legalized punishments for married people (such as the "marriage tax penalty"). What we need are structural incentives for people to get married, stay married, and take care of children. Now that sounds pathetic -- doing these things is what you're supposed to do, after all -- but the legal climate today is such that you are punished for doing these things and rewarded for irresponsibility. Until that changes, these sub-cultures that formed won't change.

(*)Charles M. Schulz: Conversations [amazon.com] , edited by M Thomas Inge

Freedom of choice (1)

alpt (715044) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045556)

The answer is simple.
There are two ways to know something:
1) You are obliged to learn it.
2) You discover it, you like, and you throw yourself in that world.
The first sucks, and you'll soon forget everything about it.
The second it's a lot different because you really _want_ to learn it.
So the best way will be:
"What do you want to study today?"
Maybe showing a list of possibilities.
The difficulty of the subject doesn't really matter.

That will be a nice school

Change passive learning to active learning (1)

cscalfani (222387) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045557)

I think the biggest mistake in the educational system is that it uses passive learning instead of active learning as its model.

Nobody learns how to drive a car by just reading about it, watching movies about it and listening to the teacher talk about it.

We, i.e. humans, learn best by doing. Kids are no different. If you're going to teach math, make an activity out of it. Give kids a goal that requires math to achieve it. Math was invented/discovered out of a real world need. Kids would best be served by seeing the need early on and then experiencing math in order to achieve their goal.

I always swore that if I was ever in a position to teach a class (kids or adults) about how a computer works, that I would build a computer out of the people in the class. I'd have some of the class as memory, someone as the CPU, etc. I'd have an address bus and data bus that they'd have to follow. Then we'd execute a simple program to add 2 numbers.

I'd do this on the first day. Then all the book learning and lectures would be based on a common experience, viz. the human-computer made up of their classmates. This is active learning.

Computers in schools (1)

Pranadevil2k (687232) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045559)

School computers should not have GUIs. I'm only 19, my first operating system was DOS, and I have been miles ahead of classmates in literacy tests since 2nd grade. If they have to deal with something archaic like DOS or even more advanced like Unix, it's still more difficult to execute most functions than using Windows or MacOS. It will require a little more thought, they'll have to spell their commands correctly and make sure their syntax is correct. The kids will complain about how their computer at home is so much better. Well let them. Maybe it might get them to actually appreciate the advances technology has made in the past 30 years. So here we have a rudimentary spelling and grammar (syntax) lesson, along with Technology History and Appreciation. A little like Mustic Appreciation, but maybe somewhat less useless.

Stop pandering to the lowest common denominator (2, Interesting)

cbelle13013 (812401) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045561)

Teachers spend so much time trying to teach the dumb students, that the brighter ones are somewhat forced to stay at their level. Its not politically correct to acknowledge that some students are smarter than others, so we're stuck with a system that treats everybody the same. They've already got some programs for the advanced students, but the dumb ones are grouped in with everybody else.

Allow the bright ones to move on quicker, and keep the not so bright ones held back. Its sick that some people who spend 13 years in school can't read past a 6th grade level. Thats not creating a workforce, thats preparing them for poverty, which the bright kids later have to fund.

The most important thing though would be to get the parents involved. Kids whose parents are involved usually do better in school. Who in their right mind lets their children go off for 6.5 hours a day to be watched over by a stranger? And then they do this for their entire youth?? Parental involvement is key.

As for pay, I think they get paid alright. I might be in the minority here, but starting pay is $35k or so, and you get two and a half months off during the year. If you were to assume they made that same money during those two months, thats more than $42 to start. Not to bad.

School? What's that? (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045564)

I found school to be child/teenager storage, and nothing more. "Here, go sit with these people who don't want you around." I was not allowed to take programming classes, so I went home and taught myself how to program without any books.

I have come to the realization that if I went to college right after 6th grade, I would have done just fine. I didn't learn anything at all from 7th-11th grades in school. Highest math I had was geometry. I got really pissed one day, and went and signed myself out, and got a GED.

Also, I was taught lots of lies about our society, science, religeon, etc. The education system here in America is a fucking waste. Like systems adminitrators, some teachers are good, and some are bad. In our kind of environment, it is easier for bad teachers to hold onto their jobs, than it is for the good teachers, and this sucks.

Suggestions (1)

Uncle Jemima (899255) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045568)

Currently being a student in college, here are some suggestions to the U.S. Department of Education [ed.gov] .
  • Teach things in an inventive way that graps people's attention rather than just deluging them with facts.
  • Offer a wide selection of courses so that hopefully everyone can find something that appeals to their interests (Secondary school only)
If the schools that I attended during K-12 had done those 2 relatively simple things, my schooling experience would have been MUCH more enjoyable than it was.

One word... (1)

thefirelane (586885) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045569)

Unions...

Teacher Unions ensure all pay is based on seniority and education. They fight all attempts at merit-based pay which drives away a lot of talent.

Unions are great when the workers are more important than the product (ie. people are more important than TVs) but in education the product (students) are more important... so teachers should not be safe-guarded at their expense.

Then again, I could be wrong.

Insert Clever Title Here (1)

Maniakes (216039) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045572)

Give individual schools broad authority to set curriculums, hire and retain teachers, choose textbooks, decide how to allocate available funds, etc.

But conversely, make schools directly accountable. Not to politicians or a centralized bureacracy, but to individual parents. The question posits that public schooling will continue for the forseeable future, but at least let parents pull their kids out of one public school and put them in a different one.

There's no solution (1)

ipl me asap (777203) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045575)

The problems with public education are more symptoms of the problem with American society, not problems with the schools themselves. No amount of money, time, effort, etc. thrown at the schools will change it.

It's all about the training (1)

miketo (461816) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045577)

Learning by rote doesn't work. Taking tests that encourage information regurgitation doesn't help.

What helps is giving students the training they need to tap into the brain's potential. For the left brain, this means teaching the ability to reason, to use both inductive and deductive logic, and to learn about the doctrine of natural consequence; for the right brain, the freedom to engage in creative bursts of joy without insisting everyone color in between the lines, or always make the grass green and the sky blue.

Education today is all about moving the mobs through, teaching low-expectation behavior. However, there is no "right" to graduate, or "right" to an A. Grades and graduation should be a measure of earned merit, not classroom attendance.

We need to expect more from kids in school. Soft-pedaling education doesn't do anyone any favors.

Low Standards (2, Insightful)

Ratbert42 (452340) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045578)

Stop hiring Elementary Ed majors as teachers. Raise the standards for teachers and pay and you'll attract better teachers. I'd love to teach but there's no way I'll take a 60% pay cut to do it. I know a lot of bright people that are in the same situation. Well, that and they wouldn't put up with school administrators.

Foreign Language (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13045580)

I think we need to start teaching kids foreign languages at an early age. Not in high school. They do this in nearly every country in the world except for ours. Not only is it easier to learn a language when you are young, but IMHO not doing this leads to racist sentiments such as "why don't they learn the language when they come to my country?".

Declining by degrees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13045583)

This book/video has a very good analysis of what is wrong with American higher education. I caught a little bit of it on TV and thought that it was very informative. They have a website at:
http://www.decliningbydegrees.org/ [decliningbydegrees.org]

Solution: fix stipulation #2 (1)

Duke Machesne (453316) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045587)

2. Similarly, many Slashdot readers are brilliant people who have educated themselves to a large extent. Let's further accept that most people are not capable of doing this, or at any rate need help reaching that sort of educational self-sufficiency.


That condition is not one that is preexisting in human nature. Every child is a learning machine, mastering any and every activity that seems useful to it.

The problem with modern education is that it takes even useful activities and makes them seem useless. Children don't learn by sitting at a desk reciting things: they learn through a process of assisted exploration.

Everyone has their own natural inclinations: not every child is going to be an athlete, and not every one a philosopher. But by separating those categories completely in the academic setting rather than allowing them to interact and interrelate in an organic way, we ensure that the athlete will have little or no philosophical capability and vice-versa.

I highly recommend looking into the Montessori method [wikipedia.org] .

Having just graduated frm high school... (1)

icefaerie (827772) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045589)

Having just graduated from thirteen years of public education, I've learned there's something which many classes lack: forcing students to THINK critically and to use their brains.

So many times all students have to do is memorize this, memorize that, plug these values into a calculator program, that they're being cheated of a real education. Rote learning is rewarded; thinking is usually not, considering most teachers will hold a grudge against you for the rest of the year if you point out their mistakes or suggest a different way to solve a problem.

My younger sister just finished middle school, the usual residence of the most incompetent teachers. Her eighth grade Language Arts teacher thought that privilege was spelled with a d, among other things. My sister's writing skills far surpassed his, and since she is the type to be pushy and insistent about correcting mistakes, he hated her for it.

The only reason I learned ANYTHING about grammar, having had the same teachers my sister did, was because my mother, a former high school English teacher, taught me through helping me edit my papers.

We need more competent, intelligent teachers who are willing to accept their own mistakes. The best teachers I ever had were readily willing to admit their mistakes and to listen to different problem-solving approaches from students.

Education Research Project, No Really! (1)

JohnPerkins (243021) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045598)

My name is John Perkins. I'm an actual, genuine education major, currently attending California Baptist University [calbaptist.edu] . I've got a survey where people comment about why their good teachers were good, their bad teachers were bad, classes were fun, classes sucked, etc.. I'd really appreciate it if any of you ladies and gentlemen would be willing to fill out my survey about your experiences in the classroom. I want to be able to say what makes a good and engaging teacher and what makes a boring teacher that no one listens to.

I appreciate anyone's help.

School Survey [johnperkins.com]

I know it's a link to my own site and I apologize for that. I figured, what with Slashdot and all, it would be a unique opportunity to get some great anecdotal data. Thanks everyone.

How to be a Citizen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13045599)

The current curricullum should scrapped and replaced with teaching of basic skills. In addition to grammer and maybe math, each student should have a grounding in Philosophy, Economics, Political Science and History.

Specifically each student must understand what democracy is (in addition to the other forms of government), what capitalism and socialism are. They should learn about logic, how to engage in critical reasoning, why they should take an active part in their society and what happens when people are apathetic. All this must be drummed into their heads until every young kid knows that Freedom is not free, understands how society works (not just the simple minded "get a job" of the current era) and more importantly knows that we do not yet have all the answers.

Please this is not a advocation to a return to Classical training. I'm not talking poetry here, but what every active useful citizen should know. But, I must confess that when the students discuss Existensialism the sucide rate might go up.

Its not broken, its working as inteded (1)

MisterFuRR (311169) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045600)

Public schools were never meant to educate -- well, educate as in the normal /. expectation of the word. Public schools were meant to breed a newer, better, factory worker that could at least keep himself/herself company at cocktail parties. Give them enough knowledge that they are not easily bored, and teach them:

1. To show up on time (school bells?)
2. Take instruction
3. Perform repetitive tasks without supiervsion
4. Don't ask questions
5. Don't question authority

There was no suprise that Henry Ford himself helped tailor the american public school system, and to this day it is doing its job; it is cranking out mindless automotons. If you need any proof of this, try ordering by number at a fast food restrraunt (65% of my orders are screwed up). The school system hasn't failed, the humans driving it have failed -- they have failed to shift the focus on public school from factory automoton, to a more "renesaunce man". Even then, do we want that? Do we want kids that can so easily do whatever they want. Or rather would we want kids that have to struggle to do what they want, bust their butt to get above and learn the value of hard work (or cheating -- but even in that there is hard work). Would we want a smart lazy society, or a society of mindless drones doing all the gruntwork while the few pundits wonder -- "how did the public school system fail?".... I believe that with a little bit of old fashion "parenting" and an early start at learning in the home -- with parents that actually care to be in their childrens lives -- kids can grow up with much more intelligence then they could ever grasp in the classroom.

You can't expect much "learning" to go on in a classroom with a student/teacher ration of 30:1...even 25 or 26:1 ...too many individual needs get quashed for the greater good of the group. Couple that with california's rediculous standards (do kindergartners *REALLY* need to know their multiplication tables?), and teachers dont have time to cater to individual needs -- they are hurried just to get in all the content they are required to teach -- far beit if a child falls behind....he won't be "left behind"...he'll be dragged behind the cart....

A good book on Public school historu (avail. free online) is John Gatto's Underground History of American Education [johntaylorgatto.com] .

easy: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13045602)

: have them go to hischoools in a central/eastern european highschool/secondary school. By no means are they good or even perfect, still, IMO, lighyears better then some western european or US counterparts.

End mandatory schooling (1)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 9 years ago | (#13045605)

Only kids who want to be there (or parents who want their kids to be there) are allowed[1].

Everyone else -- go find a vocation and learn to live modestly since you don't give a damn about yourself anyway.[2]

[1] This means even learning disabilities are allowed as long as the child or their parent wants them the receive an education. As long as one or both of them care, then the system should bend over backwards to help them.

[2] Parents cannot FORCE their kids out of school either. If the kid wants to be there, again, bend over backwards to help them stay there even if it means separating them from some selfish parents who want their kids to go work in a factory instead.
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