Finishing School: Taking On the Half-Finished or Never Started

Human Tower Building Competition in Barcelona Spain, courtesy Gawker media

People who are quick to accuse technology-minded education enthusiasts and entrepreneurs of profiteering and home wrecking are simply wrong. Our civilization — check that, our GLOBAL civilization — is traveling a chaotic and uncharted course either to its own cataclysmic destruction or an event horizon where new things will be possible at scale.
Poverty is a problem that you cannot fix without fixing education. And education is a problem that you can not fix without fixing poverty. But the problem right now is that school is not meant to address any social issues wide scale, globally, or even locally. It’s meant to be a “finishing school” for kids that we view, not as miniature adults, but as embryonic dullards who must be trained, fixed, molded and shaped to fit into a system that really doesn’t work anymore.
We very nearly experienced a massive Great Depression II two years ago, and we are still struggling with it. State and local governments are only just now really feeling the real pain. And we want to send urban students through programs that only produce more people that — because of the cultural systems we have created — cannot fix these problems? Sorry. It won’t work. The new thinking is about ending these finishing schools, and transforming them in to places where real creativity, real learning, and new thinking can be enlarged, made global and made real.
I’ve said it before, kids don’t like school and they drop out, because of things even less complex reasons than those that we take as received wisdom. They drop out and are unruly because they are bored, and because they don’t think their work has merit in the wider world. If I am a sophomore math student turning in one sheet homework every morning, how does that compare against going home, turning on YouTube, a web cam or my sister’s camcorder, and rapping to an audience that has no limit?
Learning will have to change to make the most beneficial things for humanity possible. In the New Learning environment, it will be the task of students, parents, teachers and leaders to take on new challenges that we are only now beginning to see. We can use opportunities to learn physics, mathematics, religion, philosophy, things that are already in kids’ heads to begin with. School has always been about being finishing school, as a finished person. Let’s create schools that finish school, and boost the participation of real humans who are always bent on becoming something better, bigger and more helpful in the world.
That’s what we need right now.

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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1 Comment

Ed Jones

Someone who's writing a book should take up a better nom de plume than "Staff". It just doesn't have that Tom Clancy/Maya Angelou ring. :-)
History indicates that Great Depression 1 wasn't caused by the crash, so much as by government's response.
Which strangely reminds me of a debate about what our military officers should learn.
West Point and Annapolis have forever had an engineering focus at their core. In the wake of the 9/11 intelligence failures and our subsequent struggles in c.2006 Iraq, the question arose as to whether this focus remained effective. Is this now the best leader-development path for a post-industrial superpower in a "flat" world? Or should they be more immersed in world culture, history, humanities?
The answer turned out to be, that if the political leaders got out of the way, let the professional military do their jobs, with the resources and rules of engagement their professional experience indicated, then,...yes the cadre of officers turned out to date was more than ready for the job.
Why? Not because these officers are sighting artillery range and elevation, nor building bridges. They were effective in the mire that was Iraq because they learned two things in their academics:
1) Intellectual discipline. The tenacity to power through when it stops being fun, or even seeming possible.
2) Logical rigor. Face the world as it is, not as you wish it to be.
West Point also teaches another thing: traits like honor, integrity and duty. They don't just talk about it on character day. They demand it every day.
Deep, collegiate STEM teaches all of this. So does deep connection with rich, time-tested content.
You can't fake solving a Fourier transform, and you can't read a rich biography of Washington without coming away feeling weak.
The kids who are bored, who don't think that their work has merit in the wider world, probably aren't being told that it does. Not enough. Perhaps with good reason, perhaps much of that work has little merit.
Consider the colleges their teachers and standards-writers attended.

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