A glimpse into the brains of the "less famous Gates".
Friday, November 4, 2011
Fixing The Education System
This article by Time, brings up a great question of what priorities we need to make in our education system.
What should we train for in the "new economy"?
Well, basically everything :)
But if we want to get specific, let's start with the easy, universally applicable skills.
People in the Ukraine graduate high school at 16 having done Integrals and Derivative (what we call first year university calculus). And then there's first-year stats, which is pretty straightforward.
The standard for "high school" math should really be closer to what we currently think of as "second-year university" math.
Tools like Khan Academy are trying to do exactly this.
Solid math & stats skills are key component of everything from healthcare to science to engineering to sales & marketing to construction to politics, etc... Basically every well-paying white collar job has some essential math component.
#1a: Science training
Everyone should be equipped with the mental tools to both perform and evaluate scientific tests. In theory we learn all of this stuff, but we don't really practice it. How many people can say that they had performed even 50 controlled scientific tests before graduating from high school?
In University, most classes will do things like weekly labs, but most high schools I've known do not do this or do it to the level where it's "mastered" rather than just "known".
Lack of access to well-understood scientific method and stats is a major societal barrier. From politics to business to health, humans consistently demonstrate poor math/science reasoning skills.
This is a major barrier to top-level employment.
#2: Communication skills
Both written and spoken.
In the age of communication, this is more important than ever (not less). Whole businesses fail solely because of poor communication. People lose their jobs because of such nebulous things like "e-mail tone".
Relationships are fraught by poorly worded text message or just complete misunderstanding of word meaning.
Communications really has two parts:
Composition construction: this goes beyond just spelling / grammar, beyond confusing homonyms. When you spend your life sending words (and not sending body language), you are bound by those words. We really need to walk people through major parts of the dictionary so that they can understand these words clearly
Literature reading and comprehension. Humans communicate heavily through shared story and it's really up to us as educators and parents to expose children to those stories.
Honestly, I would to teach a lot of other stuff do. Basic construction, soldering, electronics, programming, cooking, personal finance, etc.
But I really think the things above are the core features. You can work something like soldering into a good "science training" plan.
As always, I'm open to and would love to hear other thoughts on priorities :)