Andy’s Newspaper column archive

Can we change education? ©

There isn't a day goes bye that I don't learn something new.  My education never stops.  As I get older my thirst to learn becomes greater to the point that now I realize, once I have learned something new that day, I can go back to bed. I don't have to, but I can.

There’s a difference between teaching (to impart knowledge of or skill) and learning (to acquire knowledge or skill by study, instruction, or experience)

So who is teaching me now? Every one, every thing and every event, as long as I recognize the opportunity. There it is in a nutshell. Pretty simple. Desire and opportunity mixed with a good dose of ability and experience.

We talk about teaching as if that’s a magic bullet to gain knowledge and skill. It is, but not without the ability to learn. So if you teach to someone who has no desire to learn you are wasting your time and talent. Not everyone is good at teaching. If your presentation is lifeless, the subject is dry or you just are not cut out for it you may need to find a different career. During my many years I have helped friends deal with losing their job. I still choke up, when after fifteen or twenty years, my phone rings and someone has called to let me know how our conversation during that time changed their life and how great their lives became.

Can we change education? We already have begun. Can you see the change coming? It isn’t really obvious to us because we are focused on the days activities, work, the dentist, doctor, shopping, all the normal daily chores. Yes, even watching TV, listening to the radio, writing on Facebook, or Twitter and reading the Pahrump Mirror.

These are all things changing education. Also Google, Meta crawler, You Tube, CS50, Granicus, Discovery, The Matrix etc. etc. They are not toys but an accelerated way of learning. We used to have to get a book, or find some one to show us how to do something. This involved telephones,  books, libraries, book stores and time. Now access to a computer with high speed communication can reduce the time factor by an amazing degree. We have accepted this without learning enough from it.

We are slow to embrace the change that is coming but we should not ignore it. Students in elementary grades display an enthusiasm for learning that in many cases seems to disappear asstudents move up through the grades.

This is a true story about a little girl, Sharon, who prior to attending Kindergarten had learned to write small letters. Her teacher insisted she write big like the other students so everyone would be the same. Sharon’s mother discussed this issue with the teacher and decided the teacher knew best. Imagine, you learned something yoo soon and were now told at age five that you shouldn’t know how to do that. The effect could be a loss of interest in learning which can carry on through life unless someone or something intercedes. Fortunately that happened for Sharon but not until High School.

So how does this affect education? Most normal young children seek and absorb information at a very high rate. What happens if a child already knows what is being taught? Could they develop either a superior position or boredom? What if we could preserve that need for learning? What could we do? This could be a “what came first, the chicken or the egg” scenario.

What if we shortened the traditional four year high school program to three years. Before you scoff at this you should know that we have students in Pahrump that complete the required studies and can pass the state exam in a three year period. They can even take college studies for credit while still in High school. I had enough credits in my high school at the end of my third year. Year four was made up of 4 study halls, gym, shop and an elective. We couldn’t take a college course in the last year back then.

What if every student believed that they could be out of High School in three years. What if they knew that in middle school? That they could go to and finish college sooner, or get a real job sooner and start their adult life adventure sooner?

I believe this is doable, but first we need to restructure school. Establish each students ability to learn and encourage each to excel to the best of their ability. Along the education travels we have been forced to homogenize the classroom. All levels of ability are together. That is discriminatory and unfair to those who can learn and advance more quickly

It is unfair to those who cannot advance quickly because they may not have enough time to master the skills needed to graduate. Instead they fall behind and become bored with the studies.

I mentioned in a previous article the development of Nye schools of excellence. Teachers want it, administrators act as if they want it and most of all most students need it.

Ever since Albert Shanker ran the teachers union in New York City, the solution to better education has been more money. Not this time around. Not now! A restructuring of schools and education in Nevada is long overdue. Resistance is futile. Change can be good if properly applied. The change we need is a restructuring of the school system to demand, not request, excellence. Three years of High school is the next big step.  Our students want and need this challenge. So do we!

Andrew Alberti Jr