Learning, Infinite Series by Adam on 2008-04-23 11:02

I always enjoy Bob Cringley’s articles, but when he speaks of how schools are outdated, I’m especially impressed. Paul Graham has said that high schools are basically prisons, and I agree with that, but Cringley takes it further: all schools, from kindergarden straight up through med school, follow a model that is increasingly out of sync with the modern world. He gives some compelling arguments as to why schools, as we know them today, will be gone completely in the next decade or so.

One of his key points is that “we’re moving from a knowledge economy to a search economy.” This is a pithy and less threatening way of stating the hard truth: that values held dear by traditional education are no longer useful. This is going to be very hard for people to let go of. Expect a lot of bitterness and fighting from those with their identities, lives, and possibly paychecks intimately tied to the industry and culture of traditional education.

But I for one couldn’t be happier to see scholastic institutions fade away. I didn’t get a lick of value from my time spent in school, other than social side-effects like learning how to deal with the schoolyard bully or how to pass notes in class undetected. Only once school ended was my time freed up to spend on actual learning. I can only imagine how much further along I would be in life now if I could have started learning 20 years earlier.

Cringely’s article has two subsequent followups that expand on his ideas, and all three are also available as podcasts. Highly recommended.

One comment per 'Schools'

  1. Cat says:

    A friend was sharing recently with me some of the cool stuff she’s been learning in a Motivation class taught in UCSB’s Education department. Essentially, her professor was arguing that the structure of classes and grading for K-12 students completely ruins intrinsic motivation.

    As he was defining it, intrinsic motivation is the childlike motivation to exert effort towards goals, with wonder and without fear of consequence. Skills and increased knowledge are typically a result of effort.

    Tests and grading entirely reward the skill and knowledge with no regard to effort, the scaffolding that allows for the creation of said knowledge that is being rewarded.

    In short, a lot of kids get discouraged and hate school because they think they aren’t “smart”, when in reality their motivation to achieve has been cut off at the knees by messages that being gifted means performing effortlessly in normal classroom settings.

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