A Critique of Modern Education

In this post, I would like to address the education system as a modern institution which does not fare well for its purposes and goals. Every education system has at least one objective in mind. Some commonly known objectives include but are not limited to include :

  • To imbue students with a sense of foundational knowledge as deemed by society for appropriate socialization, contextualization and operation
  • To impassion students with a desire of continued learning and propensity for critical thinking
  • To construct a foundational basis for which students as beings themselves can respond to the problems of daily life and resolve them
  • To promote further desire to contribute to society through the application of knowledge and skills gained, and to further refine them by having an appreciation for if not one or more fields of subjects
  • To teach critical life skills such as working together, communication to one another and learning from one another

However, what I often find, if more than not, is that schools don’t really address such objectives. In this modern day and age, everyone is seeking for a job or a career by whatever means in order to live and survive. This mentality stems from the fact that as a society, we don’t really care about people in general. Whether the lives of others or just people around us, we overlook the consequences that follow from having such a perspective.

We don’t value the skills of people who we take for granted, in which our society highly dependent on. Instead we allow industries such as the financial sector, or high-paying careers to dominate the market, and in effect we undermine the jobs or careers for which should be valued (plumbing, electrical engineering, construction, etc). We pay our money to advertisers who are backed up by research psychologists to take advantage of the population’s irrationality by which money is transferred over, we dump cash out of our wallets in hope that shuffling money is going to make us richer, we bet in advance of what will happen instead of what will be produced in artificially-valued industries (digital advertisements, information companies, etc), we give money to the nearest charity or casino without thinking about the effects of our actions, we only buy products from companies who offer services to which we hear from, etc, etc.

What does this mean? Well for one thing, it means that its not the people who are the most intelligent, the people who are the most brightest, the people who are the most skilled, the people who are the most deserving that are getting the resources to build and create a prosperous society through innovation and invention. Contrast the billion of dollars given out to the pornography industry, the sports industry, the game show contestants, the copyright lobbyists and you will see quickly that our society is degenerating. Instead of paying for things which ought to be of concern, that is, people who build, who construct, who research, who spend every ounce of their effort and time into making and refining our buildings, curing the causes of our self-inflicted diseases, branding us with more efficient and powerful technology, we plunge ourselves into an era of wastefulness and stupidity. We overproduce things here and there, we try to saturate the market as much as we can, we play around with plastic paper and statistical mathematics to “efficiencize” the economy and end up hurting thousands of families in order to profit the few, we give out standardized tests which have no baring on the actual future potential contribution of a human being to society, we dump money where its not needed, we easily get influenced, etc. These are all detrimental factors to our society.

From Grade 1 until Grade 12 we are taught many things, but of which bare no relevance. We do problems here and there, we construct models of equations and solve them ad nausem, we pretend we understand but only fool ourselves in manipulating meaningless symbols, we tell our students to read books only to memorize them and forget them later, we tell students to toy around with words to please the teacher’s ears, we tell students to look at every word in the book, abstract it until completion and then blame them for being bored, we silence them when they socialize and we construct a pseudo-artificial framework for interaction which does not even exist in real life.

The first issue I’d like to address is that schools don’t help students learn. What schools help is students to be smart at ignoring the system itself, students plagiarize, copy and cheat, students memorize the multiple choice done in the other class, students optimize their strategies to adapt to their teacher’s preferences in order to achieve the “best grade”. This “best grade” means nothing in justified effect, one can understand nothing out of something and yet still get such a grade because of their capability to memorize or “cheat” without comprehension. Students often more than not forget everything or most of what they learn in 5 years. We refine them with knowledge, but then they never use it again. They build their skill-sets on artificial dumbed-down problems, students do not come to think from bottom-up, but instead the teachers teach them methods up-downwards, which only help to undermine the student’s understanding of the material. How often are you asked to solve a problem by yourself, with your own skills without the teacher telling you how to do it? How can you possibly derive formulas and its meanings if you’re only told y = this, y = that? Memorize this formula, find the inputs, set the outputs. Are students calculators? No. Students are people. People deal with concepts. Concepts enable modelling. Modeling problems means one can solve them. We gather data. We collect them. After generalizing a case, we solve problems. But this is not what schools do.

Teachers typically develop an apathy for  most students, and most students typically develop an aloofness towards their teachers in school. Is this because the students themselves are incompetent, or are unwilling to learn? Yes. Are there reasons for this? Yes. If you’d expect that people would be willing to cram material into their head, then you are sadly mistaken. Normally, one would find joy in learning something and improving their mastery of skills because they are comfortable with working at a level where they’re capable of aiming higher and higher. Not only that, but there is some real-world effect to their lives, they can do something that they want to do, they can make a difference in reality. But this in not the case in school, students don’t do anything except solve theoretical problems for which has no basis on learning. We create a binary layer, we bifurcate reality from school, we expect students to be able to apply their critical-thinking skills in conjunction with their knowledge, but this never happens because learning is only about what is enough. That material is too advanced for you, you can’t do it because you’re in grade 6, we pamper such people and such students when in effect they should be allowed to learn more. When it comes to grade 11 or grade 12, such students feel overwhelmed, and it is only justified in effect that we are the cause of such problems.

The foundational knowledge that we teach students today, which includes English, a secondary language, mathematics, sciences/social sciences and the arts is not good enough. Debt, finances, bills, responsibilities, authorities, relationships, ideas, thoughts are not often thought of in school. A human side is denied on one hand. We detach people from the reality in which they often are most present in.

We use grading systems to differentiate students, and then separate them into cohorts. Most students normally wouldn’t care what grade they get, but they are told that they should. This is wrong. Why is this wrong? Because grades do not apply in the real world. There should never be a focus on a numerical correlative value or labelling on students. What’s important is that students are learning, not one the product of the results of tests, quizzes, projects and assignments are. Can you speak a language and communicate with one another well? Can you write an article that anyone can understand? Can you create chemical compounds that can do specific things, to solve specific problems? Can you create mathematical equations to model the optimal amount of material needed to construct something and do it? Can you sell products and market them based on your theory of economics? Can you create systems based on your understanding of physics, chemistry and biology? Can you influence people with just your rhetoric? The results of your understanding and the full magnitude or effects of your understanding should be the methodological approach in which we undertake to enable students to self-actualize from learning. This is because students are not detached from the reality in which they live from every day, an arbitrary number means nothing in the real world and it shouldn’t.

Students are hardly known to be able to think things through, that’s because we expect they shouldn’t. How do 15, 16, 17 and 18-year olds in the past 100 years, 200 years, 300 years, 400 years, 500 years make a difference to our understanding of the world? They try, they model, they experiment, they think.

Filling students with terms, technicalities, random problems and assignments do not reinforce our students understanding of the world at which we should most value.

In summary,

  • Grades do not correspond well to the actual objectives of Education
  • Grades promote the Matthew Effect, people who seem to do well, will be motivated to do well and thus do better, and vice versa.
  • Grades only promote students to use “short-term” strategies to “learn” the material and forget it later, instead of learning it for the sake of learning or wanting to learn, and thus demote the aspect of learning
  • Teachers use the over-justification effect of positive and negative reinforcement which decreases the intrisinic motivation of students, this is exemplary with procrastination in assignments
  • The school environment is set up so that students are separated by cohorts, those who could do better wouldn’t be able to due to the limitations of “skipping a grade, or learning more”; trade-off of efficiency for mediocrity, (see : arbitrary creditation for students)
  • Uncontrolled factors such as eating, well-being, specific test questions, remakes, quizzes, percent distribution, participation grades, grade inflation, parental investment, social relationships, the quality of teaching, memory retention means that students don’t all start at the same platform, which means that education is not tailored to specific individuals
  • Students don’t learn from bottom-up (that is what formulas, grammar, etc) is, but rather from the top-bottom which means that students have a limited level of understanding when it comes to changing a question or a problem by one variable, two variables or factors in which their memory-correspondance, or algorithm-based approach makes them unable to answer questions
  • Most questions posed in class are meaningless, trivial or not what real-life people would do in their careers, as a result of net effect, when adults are asked something by their children, they are told that they’ve done it “long time ago”, and if so “what is the meaning of learning things to forget?”
  • Test taking and standardization only promotes the myopic-view of what really matters, why should people be selected against on the basis of which does not determine the actual potential or capability of a person? Why should education cost something? Shouldn’t money used in lesser-needed programs, etc be used to subsidize such costs?
  • The social nature or context is removed for students who work by collaboration, by which only authority is deemed to be the “appropriate” figure at all times to look to; conversely, individuals who work well independently are penalized for not working with others
  • Critical-thinking and application skills are rarely taught in schools, conformity and and universal judgement is often selected for

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